Right to Work Bill Passes in Michigan: It Has Nothing to Do With the Right to Work


On Tuesday, the Michigan legislature passed “Right-to-Work” legislation. You would think everyone in the state would be pleased. Who doesn’t want the right to work?

Apparently, the thousands that turned out in downtown Lansing to rally against it are a few.

The title of the legislation is doublespeak and has almost nothing to do with the content of the bill. The legislation doesn’t give people the “right-to-work,” it makes it so that nonunion employees don’t have to pay union dues if they work in a unionized workplace.

Orwell would be pleased. It is part of an all too common strategy in politics. To put together bills that sound good in title but have a completely different function.

Here are a few other good examples:

Budget Control Act 2011

The Budget Control Act is the most relevant example today.

In an attempt to get the budget under control, and as part of a deal on raising the debt ceiling in 2011, Republicans and Democrats agreed on a series of automatic spending cuts and tax increases if they could not reach an alternate deal by the end of 2012.

Ironically, it's brought us to a "fiscal cliff" ... the antithesis of "budget control."

Patriot Act

The United and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act (i.e., the USA Patriot Act) was signed into law in 2001.

Among other things, it strengthens the ability of U.S. intelligence agencies to gather intelligence within the United States. It was the legal framework that allowed for such “snafus” as the warrantless interception of Americans’ phone calls and emails.

I wouldn't call that patriotic.

The Clean Skies Act of 2003, signed into law by President George W. Bush.

The Clean Skies Act was ostensibly a measure to safeguard the environment from pollution by putting into place a kind of cap-and-trade system for air pollution.

Under the hood, it amended the Clean Air Act and in effect reduced environmental safeguards by proposing restrictions less than those that were already on the books.

In a somewhat famous back-and-forth in a debate between Senator John Kerry and President George W. Bush, on the topic of environmentalism, Bush pointed to the Clean Skies Act as evidence that he cared about the environment. Kerry, almost befuddled by the doublespeak, said, “The Clear Skies bill is one of those Orwellian names you pull out of the sky, slap it onto something.”

The title is “clear propaganda,” said Representative Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) at the time.

Clearly, it's right there in the title.