Labor Day 2012

by David E. Shellenberger on September 3, 2012

In 2010, I suggested renaming Labor Day “End of Summer Day.” The current holiday is not actually intended to celebrate labor, but rather burdens on employment, i.e., regulation and government-empowered unionism.

There might be popular support for a name change. Rasmussen Reports found, “Fifty-two percent (52%) celebrate the federal holiday as the unofficial end of summer.”

Last year, I discussed the destructive role of the National Labor Relations Board and the Department of Labor. I also reviewed the harm done by federal fostering of private unions and states’ encouragement of public employee unions.

Department of Labor Labors On

The Department of Labor (DOL) remains “a propaganda arm for the administration.” In this year’s Labor Day message, Secretary Hilda Solis refers to the department’s mission ensuring “fair wages, safe working conditions, and training that leads to amazing careers.”

“Fair wages” are those determined by the market, not politicians. Minimum wages are unfair to employers and “price low-skilled workers out of the labor market.” Employers and employees have the incentive to make workplaces safe, and the Occupational and Safety and Health Agency (OSHA) should be closed down with the rest of the department.

The DOL’s employment and training programs may lead to “amazing careers” for the department’s employees, but not for the people the programs purport to serve. As the Cato Institute explains, the programs are “ineffective and unneeded”: “[F]ederal employment and training programs don’t fill any critical need that private markets can’t fill.”

What the DOL is good at is encouraging unemployment and discouraging job-creation through the unemployment insurance program. The program should be terminated.

Ms. Solis’s message presents a cheery picture of the economy, crediting the Obama administration’s “smart policy choices” for the “recovery.” Here is a more realistic assessment, in the Investor’s Business Daily editorial, “You Call This An Economic Recovery?”:

[T]he $830 billion stimulus, the $5 trillion in new debt, the auto bailouts, the huge ‘green energy’ subsidies, Dodd-Frank, ObamaCare and hugely expensive environmental regulations have combined to produce the weakest economic recovery since the Great Depression.

Jeffrey Tucker captures the bleak outlook in his article, “It’s Brutal Out There”:

The human mind is profoundly affected by that essential question: Is life getting better or worse? The answer for most of American history, save war and depression, has been very clear: It’s getting better. We are headed toward the light. Generation by generation. The trend now is clearly the opposite: We are headed away from light toward dark. The upcoming generation of workers is sure of it.


The DOL, disconnected from economy reality, has reason to celebrate:

The Department of Labor turns 100 in March 2013 but we couldn’t wait to start commemorating our centennial. We’re launching a year’s worth of educational events!

I won’t be joining the DOL’s festival, but wish everyone Happy End of Summer Day!

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