Another “jobs bill” is crawling through Congress. This one has a mere $15 billion price tag, making it a largely symbolic gesture—$15 billion is roughly what taxpayers spend to ferry Nancy Pelosi and her royal family around, especially when Nancy decides the hors d’oeuvres are not to her taste, and the Air Force must divert the plane to France. If the president wants to use government power to dramatically boost employment, there’s a much simpler program he should propose:
More specifically, Congress could pass a law limiting the work week to a maximum of 32 hours for full-time employees, coupled with a requirement that their total weekly compensation must remain the same, effectively increasing the minimum wage by 20 percent. We would call it “The Abolish Monday Act” to give it a catchy name and build popular support. After all, everyone hates Mondays.
We should see an immediate surge in employment as a result of this legislation. Businesses would need to hire more people to make up for the lost hours currently extracted from their full-time wage slaves, increasing the size of the job market by twenty percent overnight. Unemployment would be beaten into submission! We could even offer businesses a substantial tax break for new hires, financed by the reduced cost of unemployment benefits.
The extra time off would enhance the quality of everyone’s life, allowing them more time to spend with their families and friends. The additional leisure time would also produce rising demand for entertainment, rewarding one of the Democrats’ most loyal constituencies. More jobs would be created through this demand, along with increased consumer spending. Everybody wins!
The Abolish Monday Act would be no more oppressive, or unconstitutional, than many of the mandates government has imposed on employers for decades. It would be a shot of political Viagra for the flaccid Obama Administration, purchasing tremendous popular support with the gift of an extra paid day off each week. The costs would be borne by hateful fat-cat business owners, who frequently rake in more than $250k per year—the amount specified by president Obama as the maximum virtuous income level in his State of the Union speech. They can afford to give you that extra day off to spend with your kids, seek self-actualization through your hobbies, or volunteer with the local branch of whatever ACORN calls itself these days.
OK, fun time over. The Abolish Monday Act is a silly idea. It’s useful to examine the reasons why.
The fatal flaw of the Abolish Monday Act stems from a fundamental misunderstanding about the nature of employment. Jobs are not services provided by employers. They are a commodity sold by workers. You are the vendor of your own labor, and Big Government distortions of the labor market interfere with your ability to sell your product to your customers. A federally-mandated bonus day off is not a “gift” to you… it’s a price control on the labor you sell to earn your livelihood.
Passing laws to dramatically increase the cost of labor would force small and struggling businesses out of the market. Others would cope by reducing services, shortening hours to get by with fewer employees. Those companies which responded in the “desired” fashion, by hiring more people to cover the new government-mandated day off, would pass the costs along to their customers. Raises and bonuses would become very hard to come by, as the general cost of labor exploded. It’s the same sad old song we’ve heard from collectivists for decades: a targeted constituency receives favors, and everyone else becomes more impoverished, and less free.
Prosperity cannot be commanded into existence. Businesses hire people when they grow. The private sector contracts when the government drains money and freedom from it. Forward-looking companies make the long-term commitment of employment when they see new opportunities in their future. No pork-fried “stimulus” bill can replace the power of growth, or the allure of possibility. A law that forces people to work fewer hours would not result in increased employment, but rather diminished production… one more example of wealth crumbling away to dust, as the government tries to force it where it doesn’t want to go.
If you agree the Abolish Monday Act is a silly idea, then ask yourself: why would price controls and supply restrictions be any more sensible when applied to health care?
John Hayward is a computer consultant and freelance writer living in Florida. He has been a regular contributor to the Green Room section of Hot Air since April 2009, and launched his own Web site, www.doczero.org, in December 2009.