Margaret Thatcher quipped “The problem with socialism is you eventually run out of other people’s money.”
Case in point, a furtive glance to the west reveals yet one more good idea to protect us from ourselves.
The state Department of Labor and Industries is ready to enact a new rule that would, according to the agency, “restore overtime protections for thousands of Washington workers” and “significantly increase the minimum amount employees must earn before they can be exempt from receiving overtime pay.”
To be clear, a business with more than 50 employees would be required, based on the proposed rule, to pay a minimum of $49,100 next year in order to claim an employee as exempt.
Companies with fewer than 50 employees have a minimum threshold of $35,100 next year with an increase each year, reaching $80,000 in 2026.
After that, all companies would realize continued threshold increases annually adjusted for inflation.
In other words, government’s voracious appetite to set the world aright, one rule at a time, will never be satiated.
Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, in his support opines “Americans are working harder and longer than ever before,” assuring us this new rule will provide fairness, admitting he instigated this action by requesting the department to take steps to update the rule.
At a recent meeting in Kennewick, a representative of the department stated, “there are too many workers getting $25,000 per year and expected to work 60 or more hours a week.”
This is reminiscent of a term made popular during the Depression and coined before then by Yale economist William Graham Sumner. Sumner described “the forgotten man” as “he works, he votes, generally he prays —but he always pays.” President Franklin D. Roosevelt set out to rescue the economic downtrodden, all the while trampling the over-burdened taxpayer, the true forgotten man.
Those arguing on behalf of this rule are quick to point out the exemption rules have not been updated in more than 40 years.
The obvious response is: How then, did we manage without the long arm of government intervention for more than four decades?
Others advocating to spend your money will claim as our governor has, that this is an issue of fairness and workers are being taken advantage of.
OK, fairness to whom, the employee?
If one agrees to work 60 hours a week for a set salaried amount, that may not be prudent but one may be on unsteady footing to rule it “unfair.”
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported recently there are more than 7 million job openings. Those being taken advantage of are free to roam about the country seeking gainful employment should they be discouraged with their current compensation level. Said individuals may lack skills or training, traits the bureaucracy cannot remedy, regardless of the level of compensation foisted upon the private sector.
Fundamentally, we are being trained to regard our government’s role as imperative in providing basic human rights for individuals, whether employed or otherwise, countering the intuitive nature that each individual is responsible for one’s own welfare.
Perhaps, a more just approach might resemble that of the founders who perceived basic human rights as inalienable and government interventions as likely to create an impediment to that which they claim to hold sacred.
This government dictate, along with countless others, could lead to death by a thousand cuts, negatively impacting our economic well-being. Any claims of benevolence emanating from Olympia will be sacrificed at the expense of the individual, whether employer or employed, as our lives become less about liberty and tend toward subservience.
Not all jobs are created equal.
Formal comments may be submitted to the state Department of Labor and Industries at EAPrules@Lni.wa.gov. Deadline for comments is Sept. 20.
Jeff Jones is business manager at The Wenatchee World. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.