Obama’s War on Opportunity

In the five years since I earned my bachelor’s degree in human resources, most of what I learned has become obsolete because of the radical, largely surreptitious changes being made by the Obama Administration.

Obama’s policies are a concerned effort to fundamentally transform the relationship between employers and the government, and they threaten the American way of hard work in pursuit of ample opportunity.

The pinnacle of Obama’s overreaches is his draconian new overtime exemption rule. In order to qualify an employee as salaried, and thus exempt from being paid overtime, an employee must now make $455 per week. Obama’s phone-and-pen dictate doubles this to $970, a change the normally tepid Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is vigorously opposing.

In a recent newsletter, SHRM stated, “The proposed increase to the salary threshold for exempt employees is too high and will have a significant negative impact on employers and employees.”  In a nutshell, the rule doesn’t take into account regional cost-of-living differences, the struggles of startups and small firms, the harm done to nonprofits, and the consequences for workers hoping for an opportunity in mid-level management.

In the real world, the number of managers will be greatly reduced to avoid obscene new labor costs. They will be replaced with low-cost part-time employees. Fewer managers means fewer opportunities for advancement and more low-paying jobs. It also means small firms struggling to get off the ground will either adapt by drastically changing their employment model, or they’ll fail.

Make no mistake: suffocating smaller competitors is actually good for massive corporations.

Obama is also moving forward with pen-and-phone implementation of mandatory paid leave for federal contractors. SHRM says the rule will gift about 300,000 workers at federal contractors with paid leave, at least on paper, but that it too is “particularly likely to disadvantage small firms.” Keeping in mind that large firms started as small firms, this is another dictate that protects the interests of big business while stomping on opportunity for small businesses.

The rule is also likely to result in lower pay, fewer hours, downsizing, and shoddier employment situations like more temporary/agency employees and independent contractors. In other words, it’s bad news for hoards of employees at companies that work on contracts with the government.

History ought to record these two overreaches as among the most shocking dictums ever to bypass Congress. And as bad as they are, there are many more examples that could turn this column into a book.

I haven’t even mentioned Obamacare, which builds in a virtual mandate for employers to cut their workforces’ hours to below 29 hours per week, takes away choices from employees, and encourages pay cuts. Then there’s The Left’s absurd minimum wage demands, which will make unskilled and marginally motivated workers entirely unemployable.

The list will go on. One SHRM expert pointed out mandatory paid family and sick leave as something that’s on the horizon – and Obama’s already paved the way to make it happen via executive action.

Feckless opposition, a lapdog media, and a weakened checks-and-balances infrastructure make these radical changes by unelected bureaucrats difficult to combat. But one thing is certain: the next president needs to be a strong conservative, lest a seething, perpetually part-time underclass settles permanently in America.

About the writer: Chris Rochester is editor in chief of Morning Martini. He’s an armchair politico, veteran of several campaigns, and communications specialist. He's the communications director for the MacIver Institute. Commentary here is strictly his own.