Protective pressure

Public outcry keeps some of Obama's decisions in check -- for now

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You won’t find many more voices stronger than ours when it comes to fighting for children’s safety.

But the government clearly was poking around in the wrong place when it thought for a second that it would be a good idea to superimpose child labor laws onto family farms.

Under increasing public pressure – we’ll revisit the phrase “public pressure” shortly – the Obama administration has withdrawn a proposed rule that would have drastically changed the types of chores that could be performed by young farm workers.

The rule would have banned children younger than 16 from using power-driven farm equipment and prevented those younger than 18 from working in silos, feed lots and stockyards.

In other words, the owner of a small family farm wouldn’t legally be able to, say, ask his 15-year-old son to drive a small tractor back to the equipment shed, or his 13-year-old daughter to lead a calf at a livestock auction.

Thankfully, after an outcry from farm families, advocates and members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, the administration backed down Thursday.

“It’s good the Labor Department rethought the ridiculous regulations it was going to stick on farmers and their families,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. “To even propose such regulations defies common sense and shows a real lack of understanding as to how the family farm works.”

Such a rule wasn’t even necessary. The federal government can pitch in with state and national farm agencies to effect change and improve work safety without adding another layer of bureaucracy, and without tearing apart traditional roles within hard-working farm families.

But getting back to that phrase “public pressure.” That was the only reason the Obama administration retreated from this proposed rule – not because it realized how misguided and ill-conceived the rule was.

That’s chilling.

Now cast your mind forward to the possibility that President Obama will be re-elected. He and his operatives no longer will have to pander to voters to get support, or back off from unpopular decisions to stay in voters’ good graces. What then?

Just what will the Obama administration try to perpetrate in a second term?

We’re getting a taste of that now. In an April 22 story, The New York Times barely could contain its giddiness on what Obama has been doing to skirt Congress – firing off executive orders and other policy decisions. Remember, this is the same Obama who, as a presidential candidate, dished out criticism against President George W. Bush about supposedly flouting the role of Congress.

Now, Obama is all for it. Who needs bipartisanship? He’s a fan of what the Times calls “executive unilateralism.” People living under dictatorships might have another term for it.

“If Obama does win a second term,” warns Conn Carroll of The (Washington) Examiner, “most of it will be spent in front of the Supreme Court defending his unilateral use of legislative and executive power.”

In his first term, Obama has presided over unprecedented government spending and government control over our lives. It has flattened our economy and pummeled American optimism.

Public pressure could be the last remaining protective barrier against a tsunami of nightmarish presidential edicts.

Will that protection be there in a second Obama term? And if it is there, will it be heeded?

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faithson 04/30/12 - 11:00 pm
' flattened our economy and

' flattened our economy and pummeled American optimism.' Oh, I think the republicans and their naves (faux news, AM radio talk) have done a fine job of that in their effort to thwart a second term for President Obama. Runs fine here in the 'bible belt', but I think the rest of America has a different opinion... and their the ones who will pick our next President, not the south. FEAR if you must, it just seems like such a waste.

specsta 05/01/12 - 01:40 am
What is it with the

What is it with the Republicans and other right-wing folks?

As Jay Leno jokingly said about a proposed law in Maine to end child labor laws there, "Well, yeah, why should the 10-year-olds in China be getting all the good factory jobs?"

Is that the world of the right-wingers? Do away with child labor laws and revisit the mid-1800's and early 20th century? We already know that the right's philosophy is, "Anything to make a buck, and not pay any taxes on it, while demoralizing the workers".

Maybe, just maybe, the Obama administration reviewed the data on studies that show that farm worker children suffer almost 100,000 injuries annually from agricultural work. Maybe the administration looked at the high rate of dropouts (a third never graduate high school), and just maybe the Obama administration looked at the safety concerns of exposure to pesticides and other chemicals used in agriculture.

Then again, let's get down to brass tacks. This isn't about the perfect farm family where little Jimmy waves to Dad as he drives the tractor into the barn, as Fox News and other right-wing propaganda machines would have you believe - THIS proposed law is about protecting the children of migrant workers.

That's right - migrant workers. Yes, those folks who just happen to be mostly ethnic, and help to bring your brightly colored fresh vegetables and fruits to your grocer. It's a hidden agricultural economy that most folks don't care to know about. Migrant farm-workers work long hours under harsh conditions and the children work the same as the adults.

Don't be fooled by the Chronicle editorial staff, when they try to make it seem like this is just "chores" performed by little Jane and Johnny on grandpa's farm. It's a whole lot bigger than that.

So maybe that's why the Obama administration believes that increasing protections for children is a good idea.

FriedFacts 05/01/12 - 05:28 am
Exempt family farms then if

Exempt family farms then if this is only to protect the children of migrant workers.

agustinian 05/01/12 - 07:07 am
I'm at a more basic level.

I'm at a more basic level. Why is the federal government involved in stuff like this? States can handle this. New York may have a different view of family farms then say, Georgia or South Carolina.

Uncle Sam, please leave us alone.

willie7 05/01/12 - 11:21 am
A great post ,specsta. I have

A great post ,specsta. I have read horror stories about mirgrant children working on our big farms.

Austin Rhodes
Austin Rhodes 05/01/12 - 12:24 pm
This is easy enough to

This is easy enough to fix...only employ LEGAL migrant workers (kids that age CANNOT get a Green Card). Problem solved.

allhans 05/01/12 - 01:52 pm
Good gracious, folks. There

Good gracious, folks. There is nothing wrong and lots right about putting a child to work when he is old enough.
My entire family (6 children) worked after school when we were needed. The crop needing harvesting, then we went to the field.
There were even odd days when my dad got permission from school for us to be absent, which was granted as long as our grades were good.
Family reunions - recalling all the bad and good times -

fedex227 05/01/12 - 09:54 pm
"This is easy enough to

"This is easy enough to fix...only employ LEGAL migrant workers (kids that age CANNOT get a Green Card). Problem solved."

I agree, god forbid we should look for ways to enact laws now that protect the safety and well being of children in the U.S. Seriously, let's wait for congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Should be any day now. What's a limb here or there.

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