Quit Passing Laws and Enforce the Ones On the Books

This is the best blog post that I have seen in a long time. It comes from the Glittering Eye, a blog I highly recommend to you if for no other reason than the author eschews dogmatism, partisan politics and all other manner of bias in favor of just getting at the common sense of most issues.

Here he talks about a thoroughly obvious point that the Wall Street Journal found worthy of an article. I apologize in advance for excerpting most of the post but it’s too good to pass up.

A new report which doubtlessly required millions of dollars to produce has determined that low wage workers are exploited by their employers all too often:

Low-wage workers are routinely denied proper overtime pay and are often paid less than the minimum wage, according to a new study based on a survey of workers in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

The study, the most comprehensive examination of wage-law violations in a decade, also found that 68 percent of the workers interviewed had experienced at least one pay-related violation in the previous work week.

If we had reporters, scholars of labor law, or legislators who’d actually worked for low wages, it might not have come as so much of a surprise. Presumably, this is why we need lots more people who’ll work for low wages as is urged on us on practically a daily basis by advocates from the Wall Street Journal to The Nation.

The one, singular important thing that should be recognized in this is that new legislation won’t do a thing to reduce this sort of offense. It’s already against the law. This is an enforcement problem and if Congress had 10% as much commitment to enforcing the laws it passes as it does to passing new laws reports like this would have very different findings.

Please pay attention to the last paragraph. We have become a nation of rules and regulations that are rarely enforced in a meaningful manner. Mortgage brokers steered their customers into suspect loans and failed to properly disclose their consequences not because it wasn’t illegal but because they knew the odds of being caught and prosecuted were ridiculously low.

Realtors pushed their clients to buy more house than they knew they could afford secure in the knowledge that there would be no repercussions though it might well have violated their fiduciary duties.

Investment bankers packaged and sold securities which were indecipherable to the investor without fear of prosecution.

Simply put, the rules exist, enforcement is ephemeral. Everyone knows it and acts accordingly. If traffic rules or even the laws against what one would normally call criminal acts were so routinely ignored the society would be unlivable. As it is, trust which needs to exist between advisers and their clients is being severely strained. The educated and informed are beginning to assume that there is no fair shake in the market while those less able to fend for themselves are targets whose feathers are either plucked or they develop a suspicion of all things offered which leads them to pass both the good and bad opportunities that happen by.

Basically, a bunch of bad apples are spoiling many a bin. Credibility among professions is ebbing to the point of disappearance.

The solution is simple. Seek and destroy the evil doers. Any law enforcement professional will tell you that it is impossible to capture all of the bad guys. What is possible is to capture some, put them in jail for unconscionably long periods of time and scare the bejesus out of anyone contemplating a similar transgression. How many professionals have you seen heading for the slammer and how much do you think the message has been delivered to those who would follow in their footsteps? Not many, right.

So Congress may pass new rules if it so chooses, but for a change providing adequate funding for enforcement would go a long ways towards truly ending the transgressions. Any good cop can tell you how to go about correcting the situation. Why can’t Congress and successive administrations figure it out.

About Tom Lindmark 401 Articles

I’m not sure that credentials mean much when it comes to writing about things but people seem to want to see them, so briefly here are mine. I have an undergraduate degree in economics from an undistinguished Midwestern university and masters in international business from an equally undistinguished Southwestern University. I spent a number of years working for large banks lending to lots of different industries. For the past few years, I’ve been engaged in real estate finance – primarily for commercial projects. Like a lot of other finance guys, I’m looking for a job at this point in time.

Given all of that, I suggest that you take what I write with the appropriate grain of salt. I try and figure out what’s behind the news but suspect that I’m often delusional. Nevertheless, I keep throwing things out there and occasionally it sticks. I do read the comments that readers leave and to the extent I can reply to them. I also reply to all emails so feel free to contact me if you want to discuss something at more length. Oh, I also have a very thick skin, so if you disagree feel free to say so.

Enjoy what I write and let me know when I’m off base – I probably won’t agree with you but don’t be shy.

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