A Uniquely Absurd Proposal

From many perspectives, this proposal by Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL), known as the “Paid Vacation Act,” deserves the utmost contempt.  (I want to use the term “logic-defyingly stupid,” but I won’t.)

1.  Is there no end to Congress’ aspiration to micromanage us?

2.  Does it never occur to Mr. Grayson that “France requires 30 days per year of paid vacation” is more damning than encouraging?  (France’s annual average unemployment rate has hovered between 9 and 10% from 2003-2008.  Over the same period, the United States’ unemployment rate has been just over half that.)  The French may have some good things they can teach us, but how to run a national economy and how to manage a national labor force ain’t among them.

3.  Does it never occur to Mr. Grayson that imposing more costs on business during a recession will make employment matters worse instead of better?

4.  Is it not pretty obvious that if there were as much to be gained economically by the indirect effects of vacation as Mr. Grayson appears to believe, and it it were as obvious as he believes, businesses would probably already be doing this?


9 thoughts on “A Uniquely Absurd Proposal

  1. Does Rep. Grayson not realize that we can all read and thus know he’s from ORLANDO? And that it’s not too big of a leap to think, “Hey, maybe Disney had something to do with this?”


  2. qb,

    Even though paid vacations are not uncommon, let me weigh in with praise for the underlying principle but not Grayson’s piece of legislation. A break from work is truly needed in our Martha world. An alternative could be for businesses to allow employees to choose the next salary increase or time off in lieu of the next salary increase. My guess is that many employees would not so choose. But others would. Like public and private school teachers, who are, contrary to public opinion (i.e. “I wish I could have summers off like teachers”), not actually salaried during summer break, the employee could also choose to work another job during his/her paid break if more could be made than available in the raise. Some companies are already using compensatory time.

    I don’t think any knee-jerk response is helpful. That there is a causal relationship between France’s paid vacations and unemployment is not a given. Work and labor law is complicated in the U.S. But it is a myth that small businesses suffer, unemployment increases, or that prices necessarily rise over the long term because of legislation. Workplace morale and loyalty to employer can also increase productivity.


  3. Coop, I love vacations too. Does wonders for my morale. But it is not rightly the purview of the federal government to meddle in such things. Argument #1 was in its place for a reason.

    This kind of slippery slope – and it is unquestionably one! – of federal micromanagement tends to spiral in a self-reinforcing way.

    And qb did not draw a causal relationship in France’s case; the piont is that France is not the best example to use if we wish to justify Grayson. I have spent enough time actually working in France – Lille, one of the largest French cities and nearest the EU headquarters in Belgium – to observe that hardly a day goes by without some public union staging a strike to protest the most trivial perceived slight on the part of those oppressive government officials…and this was back before the ostensibly conservative (but only in European terms!) Sarkozy came to power! As I said, the French could teach us a thing or two about some things, but labor law is not one of them. (Except, perhaps, in negative terms, as in: how to keep the camel’s nose safely away from the tent.)

    And you mean to persuade us that policy-driven changes in employment costs have no effect on employment?

    In a recent, comprehensive evaluation of published research on the subject of, for example, teenage employment and the minimum wage, Burkhauser et al. (2000) wrote the following:

    “Like Deere et al., we find that our specification consistently yields estimates that indicate that raising the minimum wage reduces teenage employment…We further explore the dimension of time by extending our sample through December 1997. This allows us to examine the effects of the most recent increases in the federal minimum wage to $4.75 in October 1996 and to $5.15 in October 1997 and to see if the fact that they occurred in a strong macroeconomic climate diminishes their effects on employment. We find that even during the recent period of robust economic growth, minimum wage increases had a statistically significant but modest negative effect on teenage employment. On the basis of these results we question the findings that minimum wage increases do not create employment losses…We conclude that, much like in previous decades, minimum wage increases in the 1990s had significant but modest negative effects on teenage employment.”

    Richard Burkhauser, Kenneth Couch, and David Wittenburg, “A Reassessment of the New Economics of the Minimum Wage Literature with Monthly Data from the Current Population Survey,” Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 18(4), pp. 653-80.

    At very least, that does not sound to me like much of a consensus around the term “myth.”


    P. S. [pointy headed P. S. deleted]

  4. qb,

    The qualifier was “necessarily.” Of course certain forms of legislation can cause problems for some sectors of the population. But it may well benefit others. Remember, not legislating is also a form of legislating.

    It is good to see that your stint at Aggieland taught you to do research. But I am sceptical of the study you show as demonstrating causality. Maybe, maybe not. The minimum wage is generally raised during economic–dynomite!!–“good times.” Teens are less likely to work then and more likely to live off parents largess.

    Anyway, in matters of economists and numbers, I harken to what my pappy said: “Lies, damn lies, and statistics.”

    Vive la France!


  5. “Not legislating is also a form of legislating.” Would that our current Administration and Congress would take Hippocrates’ oath for a spin.


  6. qb,

    Do no harm to whom? If the lazy fairy could actually raise the tide to lift all boats and unregulated markets were better than regulated ones, the “black” market already would have overwhelmed regulated markets. Admittedly, government is at times heavy handed and politicians in both parties can be gasbags. Your instincts are correct even if your thinking is off track. There are more important things for congress to deal with. Disneyland thinking is not limited to either party.


  7. Coop, surely you know me well enough now to see this: “First, do no harm” to the American Constitution and its limited-government ideals! That covers a lot of ground, and it certainly deals with the Framers’ overwhelmingly primary concern, that is, that the states reserve most of the prerogatives they had when they were sovereign.

    No, “Disneyland thinking” is not limited to either party, on that we can agree.

    Still, only one of them is in power, and she is obviously making the most of the opportunity to make a bad situation very much worse, primarily thanks to a president for whom “protecting and defending the Constitution” was merely something that had to be said in order to gain access to an office from which to pursue his almost unfetteredly ambitious agenda to remake the United States in his innate, collectivist, statist image.

    Now, feel free to ask qb how he *really* thinks about this presidency.


  8. qb,

    Your one-sided paranoia is showing. Statist collectivism has historically increased during the initial stages (first two to three years) of war–whether the war was constitutionally declared or not. The constitution was far more threatened during the Bush-Cheney years–war not constitutionally declared, ignoring habeas corpus, wire-tapping, not honoring the Geneva Convention, rendition, billions borrowed.

    Still not sure how you feel about Obama. But get used to the feeling. He will have another four years. And then you get Hillary for eight. No doubt your purist mantra will be what the guy in BC comics said when he came into contact with water: ARRRRGGGGHHHHH!

    Blessings anyway!

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