If the state of California is going to be legislating changes to help prevent foodborne illness, shouldn’t they maybe mandate more oversight of production? It makes the conspiracy-minded among us wonder: Is it just easier to make laws that will impact small individual businesses rather than large, powerful corporate businesses?
Of course, people do get sick because sick people handle their food in restaurants. Rather than mandating that your bartender wear a glove to flame the orange on your cocktail, perhaps it might make more sense to mandate that restaurant and food workers get paid sick leave so that they’re less likely to show up sick in the first place. Gloves or no, I don’t want someone with a stomach virus cooking my burger.
I don’t think any of us would argue against the idea that our food should be safer. But if we’re going to devote resources and write laws towards that aim, perhaps we should focus on real problems rather than complicating the lives of cooks and bartenders with overbearing laws requiring cumbersome tactics that may not even work.
So who lost net neutrality? Tasked by President Obama with codifying the principle, the previous chairman of the F.C.C., Julius Genachowski, was cowed, leading to the present debacle. In 2010, the F.C.C. introduced formal net-neutrality rules, in what it called the Open Internet Order. Genachowski, inexcusably, did not use his agency’s main authority over wire communications to enact it. Since its creation, the F.C.C. has had the authority to police all communications by wire in the United States. Instead, Genachowski grounded the rules in what is called—in legal jargon—the agency’s “auxiliary authority.” If the F.C.C. were a battleship, this would be the equivalent of quieting the seventeen-inch-inch guns and relying on the fire hoses.
What could possibly have convinced the agency to pursue a legal strategy that any law student could see was dubious? As in any big mistake, there were compounding errors. Members of Congress threatened to strip the F.C.C. of some of its powers if it enacted the rules with the full weight of its legal authority. (Indeed, Congress tried and failed to overturn the Open Internet Order.) A.T. & T. warned that it would cancel its ongoing effort to become a cable company, threatening to tar the agency with job losses. One senior F.C.C. staffer told me that it would have unduly affected the stock prices of the telecom firms. The agency also had a Kool-Aid-drinking problem; it started to believe its own legal arguments, however weak. Altogether, it was a cowardly reaction to empty political threats.
Tom Wheeler, the new chairman of the F.C.C., now has the unfortunate task of dealing with strategic errors made by his predecessor. Restoring the agency’s long-standing authority over broadband telecommunications is much simpler than it appears. Wheeler needs only to reaffirm that, for Internet firms that want to send information to customers, broadband is a “telecommunications service,” meaning that the F.C.C. has the authority to regulate it. He has both the time and the votes to do so.
It is possible that Wheeler will do nothing, confirming the suspicions of his critics. But it is hard to imagine that he wants to be the man at the helm as the F.C.C. fades, pricing wars break out, and the Internet stagnates into a version of cable television. To be sure, in the short term, one can attract plenty of praise within Washington for not doing one’s job. But Wheeler has been around long enough to understand both the importance of legacy and the judgment of history.
Again, who killed Net Neurality?
As in any big mistake, there were compounding errors. Members of Congress threatened to strip the F.C.C. of some of its powers if it enacted the rules with the full weight of its legal authority.
Thanks again, Congress….
One bill that sailed through the House Financial Services Committee this month — over the objections of the Treasury Department — was essentially Citigroup’s, according to e-mails reviewed by The New York Times. The bill would exempt broad swathes of trades from new regulation.
In a sign of Wall Street’s resurgent influence in Washington, Citigroup’s recommendations were reflected in more than 70 lines of the House committee’s 85-line bill. Two crucial paragraphs, prepared by Citigroup in conjunction with other Wall Street banks, were copied nearly word for word. (Lawmakers changed two words to make them plural.)
The lobbying campaign shows how, three years after Congress passed the most comprehensive overhaul of regulation since the Depression, Wall Street is finding Washington a friendlier place.
The cordial relations now include a growing number of Democrats in both the House and the Senate, whose support the banks need if they want to roll back parts of the 2010 financial overhaul, known as Dodd-Frank.
This legislative push is a second front, with Wall Street’s other battle being waged against regulators who are drafting detailed rules allowing them to enforce the law.
And as its lobbying campaign steps up, the financial industry has doubled its already considerable giving to political causes. The lawmakers who this month supported the bills championed by Wall Street received twice as much in contributions from financial institutions compared with those who opposed them, according to an analysis of campaign finance records performed by MapLight, a nonprofit group.
The bill, in brief, is worse than meritless; it is a fraud. According to its Republican backers, it’s an expression in legislative form of how much they care for families, work-life balance and, in particular, working women. If this is caring, I would hate to see what contempt looks like.
The bill would amend long-standing labor law by allowing private-sector employers to offer compensatory time off in lieu of time-and-a-half pay for overtime. Employers and workers are supposed to agree on the arrangement, but there is nothing to stop an employer from discriminating against those who prefer payment by cutting back on their overtime hours. Nor would employers face any real deterrent against forcing unpaid overtime on workers who fear losing their jobs if they object. The recourse for coerced workers would be to sue, a far-fetched and unaffordable option for most people.
For employers, then, the bill is a way to impose extra work at no additional cost, effectively shifting what would otherwise be worker pay into corporate profits.
For employees who won’t work overtime without extra compensation, the likely result would be fewer hours and overall less pay. For those who will, the likely result would be greater unpredictability in scheduling, which only creates more work stress, as well as higher costs for work related expenses like child care, but with no additional money to meet those expenses.