Edwards for NLRB?

If you care about poor and working folks, and if you think that reviving unionism is one of the keys to improving their lot, the chance to undo the damage done to the union movement by changes at the National Labor Relations Board since 1980 ought to be very attractive.

Bob Novak is a Republican flack, not a reporter, and everything he writes should be taken in that context. If No-facts reports that Obama will make Edwards his Attorney General, all that means is that the RNC has decided that the prospect of Edwards as AG is what’s needed to scare the money-cons back into the fold.

(Think about it: how likely is it that “Illinois Democrats close to Obama” would pick Novak as the reporter to whom they want to “quietly pass the word.” And why pass the word at all, quietly or noisily?)

But in light of the SC result yesterday, Novak’s piece does raise an interesting point: what job would John Edwards want in an Obama Administration or a Clinton Administration? Given his campaign, it would have to be something directly related to the “two Americas” problem.

I’ve heard the idea of a “czar” for New Orleans reconstruction. But does that really play to Edwards’s strengths? And what does he do for an encore?

HHS, HUD, and Labor all do important work in the interests of poor and working people, but all are unwieldy bureaucracies that no one has actually mastered. And nothing on Edwards’s resume picks him out as a great bureaucratic infighter. (Another reason not to have him at Justice, where he would be unlikely to take on, or succeed at, the vital task of de-Hooverizing the FBI to make it more competent at fighting terrorism and less Red in its cultural and political orientation.)

I suppose Edwards could run the Domestic Policy Staff, but doing lots of analytical staff work doesn’t seem like his forte, any more than running a big department does.

But what about Chair of the National Labor Relations Board? If you believe &#8212 as Edwards apparently does believe &#8212 that reviving unionism is a key to improving the lot of poorly-paid workers, then reversing a quarter-century of procedural and substantive retrogression in the handling of certification, de-certification, and unfair labor practice cases stands as a central goal. One reason companies can engage in illegal union-busting is that the NLRB process drags out so long that by the time a violation is found the target union is long since busted, and NLRB has no power to revive it.

An NLRB Chair devoted to protecting the right to organize could make a substantial difference. Yes, the job is technically below Edwards’s pay grade, but so what? He’s famous already; what he needs is a position where he could do some good for his cause.

Footnote I should declare my conflict of interest. I care about crime and drug policy. The Attorney General has the capacity to make a real difference on those issues, and there’s no evidence that those are issues Edwards knows about or cares about.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com