The Wall Street Journal makes the point that the NLRB’s reckless actions in the Boeing case is causing reverberations throughout the economy. These decisions do not happen in a vacuum and affect investment decisions across the nation. NLRB Wake Up!
The National Association of Manufacturers asked its members last month how the National Labor Relations Board’s decision against Boeing’s Sourth Carolina plant case is affecting their decision-making. Some 60% said the government’s case already has—or could—hurt hiring. Sixty-nine percent said the case would damage job growth. And 49% said capital expenditure plans “have been or may be impacted by the NLRB’s complaint.” Around 1,000 of the association’s 11,000 members contributed to the survey. That’s a lot of lost jobs.
Some might dismiss these results as self-interested, or predictable given the general business distaste for regulation. But that ignores the role that confidence plays in reviving the animal spirits essential for economic growth. When CEOs or entrepreneurs fear political intervention that might impose higher costs, they are more reluctant to invest or to hire new employees. That’s especially true when the economy is already growing slowly, or emerging from recession.
The NLRB’s assault on Boeing has been especially damaging because it violates what most Americans consider to be a core tenet of U.S. capitalism—the ability to move capital or business where you think it has the best chance of success. Boeing’s executives are being punished for remarks they made long ago about strikes at their Washington plants.
Boeing is challenging the NLRB’s complaint and may ultimately win in a federal court. But that could take months, and in the meantime executives across America are wondering what happens if the NLRB wins. Will their new plant in a “right to work” state be targeted next? Will their union drive a harder bargain knowing that the NLRB is ready to pounce on one unscripted CEO remark?
In a now-famous meeting last year with then White House budget direct Peter Orszag, CEOs from the Business Roundtable complained about the costs of regulation. Give me examples, Mr. Orszag said, and the BRT followed up with a 54-page list. A measure of the Administration’s responsiveness is that the NLRB launched its assault on Boeing after the BRT provided those examples, and President Obama has refused to say a word of reproach to the agency. This is how you get economic growth of 0.8%.