Party of Ideas

My personal favorite most annoying meme is that the Republican Party is the party of ideas. Mike’s reference to Wal-Mart shows just how silly that is.

The nation’s largest private employer has a new labor policy, which involves, says the WSJ, “revamp[ing] the way it schedules its work force, in a move that could shake up many employees’ lives”:

Early this year, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., using a new computerized scheduling system, will start moving many of its 1.3 million workers from predictable shifts to a system based on the number of customers in stores at any given time. The move promises greater productivity and customer satisfaction for the huge retailer but could be a major headache for employees.

….experts say [the program] can saddle workers with unpredictable schedules. In some cases, they may be asked to be “on call” to meet customer surges, or sent home because of a lull, resulting in less pay. The new systems also alert managers when a worker is approaching full-time status or overtime, which would require higher wages and benefits, so they can scale back that person’s schedule…That means workers may not know when or if they will need a babysitter or whether they will work enough hours to pay that month’s bills. Rather than work three eight-hour days, someone might now be plugged into six four-hour days, mornings one week and evenings the next.

Ezra is dead right on this: this could be a disaster for workers. As they say, read the whole thing.

But take a look over at the Corner. Jonah Goldberg notes the development, and then says something even more extraordinary:

Whether it’s good or bad, remains to be seen. And, even if it’s bad, whether the government has any business doing anything about it, is also a debate for another day.

That’s true: it is a debate for another day. And that day occurred about 70 years ago, during the Great Depression, when it was determined that the federal government did have an interest in labor regulation. We could even go farther and say that it dates from the Progressive Era, when states started regulating labor conditions. Labor and employment law is even older than environmental or consumer regulation.

I imagine that Goldberg just used the phrase as a way of deflecting calls for him to write about the substance. Fair enough. But this is another one of those instances that shows in graphic and scary detail what passes for respectable conversation on the right. Mark has it right: the Republican Party is a coalition between those want to repeal the New Deal and those who want to repeal the Enlightenment.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.