The election this year is considered a watershed event in American politics. We have, at this time, three individuals who have a good shot at becoming president. While there are plenty of reports on who will best serve what groups’ needs, it would be instructive to look at who would be of most benefit to the recruiting profession.
To make this assessment as objective as possible, three criteria that affect recruiting will be used to compare the candidates: immigration, since it impacts the availability of labor; supporting a climate conducive to business, since business is the primary source of employment; and legislation that impacts employment, either making it easier or more difficult to hire an employee. Everything written here is taken from the candidate’s publicly stated position, his or her voting records, or information in the public domain.
John McCain: The senator from Arizona has long supported immigration reform. He was the sponsor of the immigration Reform Bill of 2006. Had it been enacted, the bill would have made hiring immigrant workers easier, including a guest-worker program for temporary labor. On the campaign trail, he has adopted a less strident tone, but overall his support for reform remains firm. Rating: A-
Barack Obama: On immigration, Senator Obama’s positions mirror those of Senator McCain. His support for reform and a guest-worker program has been unwavering. But, he did vote to support a reduction in the number of guest workers who could be admitted, had the Immigration Reform Bill of 2006 passed. Rating: A-
Hillary Clinton: The junior senator from New York has a mixed record on immigration. She has strongly supported immigration reform, including a path to legalization for illegal aliens. She is the sponsor of the Civil Rights Act of 2008, which, among other things, would allow illegal aliens to collect back pay. Crucially though, she has not supported a temporary-worker program, which would address much of the labor shortages that lead to the demand for immigrant labor, especially in agriculture and construction. She, too, voted to reduce the number of visas that would have been available in a guest-worker program. Rating: B-
Support for Business
John McCain: The senator has an unremarkable record concerning business. He has supported programs targeted at enhancing competitiveness but, by his own admission, his understanding of economics is limited. For example, blaming pharmaceutical companies for high prices reflects a lack of understanding of the mechanics of a capitalist economy. On the plus side, he has been an advocate for free trade and open markets. Rating: B
Barack Obama: The senator from Illinois has not been around long enough to establish much of a record, so any conclusions on his support for business have to be drawn from his stated agenda. His positions are a mix of good and bad. He supports programs for job creation, investing in high-tech manufacturing, tax credits for research and development, and widespread deployment of broadband. On the negative side, he supports maintaining the openness of the Internet on the principle that network providers should not be allowed to charge fees to privilege the content or applications of some websites and Internet applications over others. He fails to recognize that allowing this would negate the need for the government subsidies he proposes to use to increase access. He also wants to expand FMLA to cover employers with 25 employees or more (down from the current 50) and make it paid leave. However well intentioned, this creates an extra burden to smaller employers that are responsible for almost 60% of all jobs. Laws like this are only a deterrent to employment. Rating: B-
Hillary Clinton: The senator has received considerable support from business, including over $12 million in contributions, mostly from larger companies. She does support programs that can foster a better climate for business. Her innovation agenda would provide billions for research on energy alternatives, funding for awards promoting technology innovation, and tax cuts for research and development. She also wants to fund incentives for students to enter math and sciences programs. While this is all good, the programs she supports are very narrowly focused and would do little to benefit small businesses which, as mentioned above, are the main creators of jobs. Also, technology is not the only type of innovation. McKinsey estimates that half of all productivity growth since 1995 has come from innovation in business processes, such as hyper-efficient supply chains, led by Wal-Mart. This kind of innovation was not even considered by most companies, and definitely not by the government, until it occurred. Rating: B+
John McCain: The decorated veteran has had very limited involvement in employment-related legislation. The only clear example was his no-vote against the points-based immigration system that would have admitted workers based on a government-created formula. Rating: Not Rated
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Barack Obama: Mr. Obama has some admirable qualities, but apparently an understanding of labor economics is not among them, as evidenced by his sponsorship of the Fair Pay Act. This bill has the laudable goal of ensuring that supposedly male-dominated occupations are not paid more than female-dominated ones. Should this bill become law, it would require employers to determine compensation based on assessments of social utility, not market demand. So, it could become necessary to ensure that nurses are not paid less than software engineers. Enforcement would be managed by the Labor Department that would set wage scales. This is how it was done in the Soviet Union. Even the Chinese abandoned such ideas decades ago. Rating: D
Hillary Clinton: When it comes to legislation that affects employment, the former partner of the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock appears to be mainly focused on legislation that can supplement her former colleagues’ incomes.
The Civil Rights Act of 2008, mentioned above, would eliminate existing damage caps on lawsuits brought under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act and add compensatory and punitive damages to the Fair Labor Standards Act. This bill would also make it easier to bring and win “disparate impact” lawsuits where discrimination in employment is alleged. Just being able to show a statistical discrepancy would be enough to claim and win a discrimination lawsuit. There would be no need to show that an employer’s hiring criteria are discriminatorily applied or used with discriminatory intent. This overturns several court rulings that have deemed statistical discrepancies to be insufficient proof of discrimination. The results of this legislation passing are obvious (as are the motivations behind it): It would force employers to abandon perfectly legitimate hiring criteria and also make them more vulnerable to litigation. More than likely, employers will respond by creating unique titles and apparently different jobs or, worse, creating quotas to avoid the possibility of ending up with a statistical discrepancy.
Mrs. Clinton is the sponsor of The Paycheck Fairness Act (similar to the Fair Pay Act) which would do almost exactly what the Fair Pay Act does. Apparently “35 years of experience” have been insufficient for the senator to understand that tinkering with a free market rarely works. Rating: F
Senators Clinton and Obama are the sponsors of the Fair Pay Restoration Act which, if passed, would eliminate any statute of limitations in many employment-discrimination cases. Your employer could be defending employment decisions from 30 years ago.
Lyndon Johnson once said that the bar to run for office was not very high. It only required that a person not be a convicted criminal or certified insane. While the current crop of candidates is certainly far above that, that they do prove that there’s no perfect candidate. The record is decidedly mixed and whatever intentions someone may have today may well flounder on the rocks of Congress. You can reach your own conclusions about who would make a good president. Perhaps you already have.