By Fernando Oaxaca
President George W. Bush hosted a news conference in the White House Rose Garden to receive the report on Electoral Reform from a Study Commission which was headed by former Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter.
Mr. Bush expressed approval of the basic principles outlined in the report which are designed to prevent or at least reduce the errors, lost voting opportunities, and the kind of presidential electoral controversy which the nation endured in November 2000 in Florida and other states.
Mr. Bush did not, repeat, did not endorse the proposal of the Commission to declare a national holiday for elections. Former President Carter, in a CNN interview today, July 30, by Judy Woodruff, implied Bush approval of the concept of a holiday and Woodruff did not correct him. Let us examine the negative impact if Congress buys this poorly thought-out scheme!
There are about 110,000,000 employed individuals in the U.S. A paid day off, assuming an average pay rate of $15/hour would cost the nation's employers, public and private, around $13 billion dollars in salary alone. With social security taxes, overhead, etc the cost would be about $25 billion in "labor" cost. The loss in production value would thus approach twice that or $50 to $60 billion in gross domestic product, with the broad assumption that public/government employees produce value.
A "HIT" ON SMALL BUSINESS!
A small business with 15 employees earning $10 per hour would have a one-day cost of: 15 x $10 x 8 x 1.5 = $1,800! (1.5 is over-head+fringe). This could represent a loss of twice that, $3,600, in production value! The 500,000 Latino businesses in California alone could lose (assuming only five workers): $1,800/3 x 500,000 x 2 = $ 600,000,000 in production or sales!
The other unintended or mal-considered result is that many employees will make another four-day holiday including the Monday before Election Tuesday if it is a holiday. Impact? Much more lost productivity!
Perhaps concerned about cost impact, the commission also suggested that the Election holiday be coincident with Veteran's Day, a day which retail stores seldom honor anyhow! The veterans don't like this; they say that this damages the honoring of veterans...and I agree totally.
Why not eliminate Labor Day? It is just a fishing/beer-drinking/etc. day for the vast majority of Americans....and besides, Labor plays a big role in elections....this gives them a chance to contribute to the cause! We'll remember Labor at the ballot box rather than in campaign financial reports.
Why not Sunday (really religious folks will complain) or Saturday (Jews will complain)? This approach costs essentially nothing. How about the Friday after Thanksgiving? This latter will still cost many billions but not as much as a dedicated holiday.
DO WE NEED IT?
And the truly key question.......will having one more holiday really increase the vote? Can you keep citizens from going fishing on that day? And how about non-citizen employees or those below 18 years of age; do they get a day off? One way to manage these problems is to withhold payment for the "holiday" if the "voter" does not present his voter's stub. Indeed, for an incentive to forego the holiday idea, as an employer, I would be willing to give a crisp $20 bill to each employee who shows up for work but shows me proof later of having somehow voted that day.
Isn't it great how the folks in Washington worry about us and try to solve our "problems"? It seems far wiser to keep things as they are; an unpaid "election day" at all government levels. It's far better to protect our GDP and the businesses, especially the little ones, that will end up getting the tab for all social "improvements", no matter the concept!
(Fernando Oaxaca has been heavily involved in Republican Party state and national affairs. He is a Director of HispanicVista.com a latino oriented internet news site. His can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org)