Daily Beast: 'Generous Guy' Obama Rewrites Overtime Regs as Back-door Pay Hike

Hailing him as a "Generous Guy," in this morning's "Cheat Sheet" digest [see screen capture below page break] the editors of the Daily Beast today praised President Obama for planning to "unveil a plan to force businesses to pay more overtime to millions of employees," justifying the move since the country "[faces] an economy where workers' wages have stagnated while corporate profits have taken off."

The editors explain how Mr. Obama is going about this, but fail to note any criticism from conservatives or libertarians, even as they, naturally, found a way to blame George W. Bush for the plight of fast-food wage earners:


On Thursday, he will order the Labor Department to require overtime pay for millions of fast-food managers, loan officers, computer technicians, and others who companies now classify as “executive or professional” to avoid paying overtime. Obama's move comes after Republicans in Congress have vowed to fight his proposal to raise the federal minimum wage. Business groups won a major victory in 2004 when they persuaded President George W. Bush to give them more freedom on exempting salaried workers.

The article the Beast linked to, a New York Times piece by Steven Greenhouse and Michael Shear, however, noted how critics say this is just another regulatory move which punishes job-creating businesses:

Conservatives criticized Mr. Obama’s impending action. “There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” said Daniel Mitchell, a senior fellow with the Cato Institute, who warned that employers might cut pay or use fewer workers. “If they push through something to make a certain class of workers more expensive, something will happen to adjust.”

Marc Freedman, the executive director of labor law policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said the nation’s overtime regulations “affect a very wide cross section of employers and our members.”

In fairness, this does appear to be a legal maneuver with long-standing precedent for Mr. Obama to make under current federal labor law (contrary to his habit of unilaterally revising the Affordable Care Act by extending deadlines at whim):

Mr. Obama’s authority to act comes from his ability as president to revise the rules that carry out the Fair Labor Standards Act, which Congress originally passed in 1938. Mr. Bush and previous presidents used similar tactics at times to work around opponents in Congress.

The proposed new regulations would increase the number of people who qualify for overtime and continue Mr. Obama’s fight against what he says is a crisis of economic inequality in the country. Changes to the regulations will be subject to public comment before final approval by the Labor Department, and it is possible that strong opposition could cause Mr. Obama to scale back his proposal.

That said, the move does underscore the president's push to act unilaterally and work end-runs around Congress and it in no way is evidence of the president being a "generous guy," but rather displays his willingness to use his power in a way which he hopes benefits himself and congressional Democrats politically even if it's bad public policy.

Most surely the folks at the Daily Beast can see through such a cynical ploy. They are free to agree with it, but they owe it to their readers to note both sides of the controversy, even in a 109-word blurb.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters