We probably don’t need a federal Department of Labor, but if there is going to be one, wouldn’t it be nice if the head of the agency were someone who actually knew something about creating jobs?
President Obama’s DOL was mostly a jobs killer - pushing forced-union work rules, new overtime mandates that hindered small businesses, and other nuisance regulations.
The good news is that Donald Trump’s apparent choice for the position of Labor Secretary is Andy Puzder, CEO of Carl’s Jr., the successful fast food hamburger restaurant chain. Mr. Puzder has not just grown the company into a major U.S. employer, he has made a name for himself as a critic of Obamacare, DOL employment regulations, and a federal minimum wage hike.
Mr. Puzder would bring a swift and welcome change to the culture of this agency. In the past, the Labor Department has been a rubber stamp for the union bosses’ agenda. Mr. Puzder, by contrast, has hired thousands of workers and saved many thousands of jobs in the fast food industry. He knows what works and doesn’t work in the real marketplace for labor.
That’s exactly why the left is mounting a loud and libelous campaign against him. Groups like the George Soros-funded Media Matters and the big unions are lambasting Mr. Puzder as someone who wants to “replace workers with robots” and who is leading the charge to keep wages low by opposing the “fight for $15” minimum wage hike.
But these are spurious charges. On minimum wage, Mr. Puzder speaks common sense: he says he would support “minimum wage increases that are rational and do not destroy jobs or the businesses supporting them.” He is also of similar thinking to Donald Trump: leave the decision to the states.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that even a $10.10 minimum wage would kill 500,000 jobs so a $15 minimum could bring job losses in the millions. That’s not pro-worker. Mr. Puzder favors an increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit to help low income workers with children earn a living wage so that the cost doesn’t crush the employers.
Similarly the left has distorted Mr. Puzder’s views on automation and robotics. Mr. Puzder believes that mandated benefits like the minimum wage hikes are merely accelerating the move to automation in the restaurant industry. That is simply a well-substantiated fact. He has said many times that “there are no robots that could replace our workers” at Carl’s Jr.
Mr. Puzder has his finger on the pulse of the labor market. He predicted with great foresight that the ObamaCare law would reduce hiring for businesses nearing 50 workers - the employment threshold for the ObamaCare regulations - and that the design of the ObamaCare insurance would soon lead to a death spiral of rising costs in the market. He was right on both counts - and for that too, the unions are out to bury him.
Does being right disqualify one from serving in the Cabinet? Is being an employer who has met a payroll and successfully turned companies around so they can stay in business a scarlet letter in Washington? Donald Trump would be wise to choose Mr. Puzder if only to prove that in his administration the answer to both these questions is no. It would also be nice for a this newly elected president to send a signal that he won’t knuckle under to the bullying tactics and the intimidation game that the left has engaged in for so many years.
Steve Moore is Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Heritage Foundation and an economic adviser to president-elect Donald Trump.