Jun 12, 2015 - 10:15am

Setting Things Straight: TPA, Immigration, the Minimum Wage, and WOTUS

Senior Editor, Digital Content


Scaffolding surrounds the U.S. Capitol dome.
Photo credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

A big part of public policy debates involves countering misleading claims. In this new regular feature, I’ll highlight important facts about the key issues being debated around Washington, D.C.

Claim: Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) is Undemocratic.

What you need to know: Smart people who should know better--like U.S. senators—claim TPA is undemocratic because it consolidates power in the White House and squeezes out Congress. In fact, TPA, which passed the Senate on a 62-38 vote strengthens the role of Congress in trade negotiations. It lets Congress set negotiating objectives, and through TPA Congress establishes requirements for the White House to consult with legislators during negotiations.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) explained this in a Wall Street Journal op-ed: “Congress gets the final say. The Constitution vests all legislative power in Congress. So TPA makes it clear that Congress – and only Congress – can change U.S. law.”

Claim: Immigrants Hurt the Middle Class.

What you need to know: Politicians promote misleading facts about immigration to rile up their political base.

For instance, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) blamed immigrants for a declining middle class. Ramesh Ponnuru, a columnist for Bloomberg View and no fan of immigration reform, said Sessions and other immigration restrictionists were "citing some dubious evidence” for that claim. The Congressional Research Service said it’s a mistake to simply conflate middle class incomes and immigration levels:

It bears noting that a causal relationship between two variables – whereby change in one variable causes change in another variable in a systematic or consistent manner – cannot be determined through a simple graphic representation.

The fact is immigrants help Americans. The Atlantic looked a one study that found that "each new immigrant produced about 1.2 new jobs, most of which went to native-born employees."

If Washington fixes our broken immigration system, Americans will see even more benefits to our economy.

Claim: Unions Push for a Higher Minimum Wage, Because They Want Workers to Get a Bigger Paycheck.

What you need to know: Across the country, unions have been funding “Fight for $15” protest campaigns to increase the minimum wage.  They couch it as a way to lift workers up. “Seems like we need a raise, right?” an AFL-CIO blogger asked.

However, in Los Angeles, we saw the real reason for the campaign: boosting union membership. After convincing the city council to raise the minimum wage, union leaders asked for an escape clause for unionized businesses. If granted, this would put nonunionized businesses in a tough position. Either they accept higher labor costs or cut a deal with a union who would get more dues-paying members.

Claim: The EPA’s Water Rule Clarifies and Limits Federal Regulators.

What you need to know: In defending its new definition of the Waters of the United States (WOTUS), EPA officials said it is providing clarity and certainty and limiting federal authority.

But when you read what EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers released, you see that it does none of that. For farmers and ranchers, waters that might be regulated “will continue to be subject to case-specific review, as they are today.”

As for limiting federal authority, the agencies says they’re excluding waters located more than 4,000 feet from a navigable water. But at the same time, they also [emphasis mine] “have determined that the vast majority of the nation’s water features are located within 4,000 feet” of a federally regulated water. That means nearly every body of water in the nation could be federally regulated. The end result will be property owners having projects delayed in order to get federal land use permits, costing $155,000.

About the Author

About the Author

Sean Hackbarth
Senior Editor, Digital Content

Sean writes about public policies affecting businesses including energy, health care, and regulations. When not battling those making it harder for free enterprise to succeed, he raves about all things Wisconsin (his home state) and religiously follows the Green Bay Packers.