Davis-Bacon Revisited

DAVIS-BACON REVISITED….Mickey Kaus thinks that Bruce Reed and I are wrong for criticizing George Bush’s post-Katrina suspension of the Davis-Bacon Act, a Hoover-era law that compels the government to pay “prevailing wages” for construction work. Is Mickey right? I’ll be honest about this: the first time I had ever heard of the Davis-Bacon Act was on September 9, when I wrote the post in question. So I’m not exactly the go-to guy for a stirring defense of the AFL-CIO position on this subject.

Still, I have to take issue with this:

But isn’t there a problem with new labor market entrants driving down wages (the problem Davis Bacon was designed to combat)? Sure. The answer is to limit immigration and pass a minimum wage law that applies across the board, not just to the jobs performed by entrenched construction unions. Now that you mention it, here’s a possible grand bargain for actual New Democrats to propose to the GOPs: We’ll abandon Davis-Bacon if you agree to raise the minimum wage. That would help low-wage workers across the board while making it possible for government to do more, more efficiently.

Well, sure. Raise the minimum wage to seven bucks an hour and index it to congressional salaries, and I might be willing to toss Davis-Bacon overboard in return. But I won’t be laying awake at night waiting for Tom DeLay to offer up that deal. In fact, the mere act of blogging about it seems sort of quaint and old fashioned, like listening to my grandmother talk about how polite and well groomed popular singers used to be back in her day. Or something.

Bottom line: It’s charming idea, but there’s no one left in the Republican leadership to talk to about it. They just don’t do the compromise thing anymore.