This is apalling.
President Bush today invoked an exemption in the 1931 Davis-Bacon act to allow Federal Contractors to pay below the prevailing wages in rebuilding areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
In fact, there should be no problem hiring people to work at any price, as over 400,000 people were made jobless by the storm. But that is not an excuse to let contractors abuse those people by paying them peanuts.
A more specific concern, and a main reason why federal contractors are normally required to pay prevailing wage by the law has to do with the quality of the work they are expected to provide.
Senator Edward Kennedy, D-MA, summarized it when he said, "One of the things the American people are very concerned about is shabby work and that certainly is true about the families whose houses are going to be rebuilt and buildings that are going to be restored,"
What this means is that we will see contractors who will slash the wages of their competent help, knowing that either a) they will quit so the contractor can hire someone desperate, but not necessarily skilled enough, to do the job for hardly anything, or b) they will be so afraid of joining the army of unemployed who will be choking the area, that they will accept the cut and do the same job for less (while the contractor pockets the cash).
Maybe it is appropriate that the President is invoking a provision from a bill that Herbert Hoover signed into law in 1931, at the height of the depression.
Looks like my friend Elizabeth Rogers was right about the comparison between Bush and Hoover.