Critics: Obama Overtime Pay Mandate a 'Job Killer'

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President Barack Obama will direct the Department of Labor to strengthen overtime pay protections for millions of workers, a White House official said Wednesday.

The directive is meant to help salaried workers who may be expected to work more than 40 hours a week without receiving overtime pay.

The order is the latest move in Obama's "year of action," a series of economy-focused executive decisions that don't require congressional approval.

But critics say it is yet another burdensome regulation for businesses and a drag on an already-anemic economic recovery.

Earlier this year, the president signed an executive order raising the minimum wage for some federal workers to more than $10 an hour.

Critics say his policies are job restricters, if not job killers, for American employers.

Bill Frezza, with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, said that with the labor participation rate at a decades-long low, the federal government is the chief culprit in the lack of economic opportunity.

"The way you help the poor most is through job growth. What they need is job growth, not food stamps," Frezza told CBN News in late January.

"What they need is an opportunity to get on that first rung of the economic ladder where their labor is not worth very much and then climb that ladder through hard work and diligence and education," he said.

But other economic analysts say some rungs on the economic ladder have been missing since the financial downturn of 2008. Associated Press Economics writer Josh Boak cites the loss of some 700,000 executive secretary positions in the past seven years.

"Economists say these mid-tier jobs have been hollowed out, and as a result for those on the low end, it's pretty hard for them to climb up," Boak said.

Richard Wilson was hired to stock shelves at Walmart. He said he was promised promotions but more than two years later, he is still stocking shelves and still waiting.

"I just find myself like many other Americans out there that did the right thing, that did what we were supposed to do, only to find out that the jobs we were promised were not there," Wilson said. "The career, it's not there."

But big companies have been struggling, along with small ones. And the U.S. government isn't making things easier through more regulation.

"We have about 140 million customers that shop in our stores each week. And if those people are getting more opportunities and are earning higher incomes and there's a vibrant middle class, that's going to lead to more disposable income in people's wallets and we'll get our fair share of that," Walmart Vice President David Tovar explained.

The president's class warfare arguments and regulations on business are popular with his political base. But a weak recovery may cause employers to pull back, and that could be one more sign of trouble for the Democrats in the November elections.

"It's going to be a long time before we get back on our feet (economically)," Frezza said. "And that's not going to happen until the federal government gets off the economy's neck."

Meanwhile, the world's largest retail association is criticizing Obama's push for changes in federal overtime pay.

A spokesperson for the National Retail Federation said the president's proposal would kill jobs and there's no evidence that changes are necessary.

"We are skeptical of the politics of the proposal and certainly of the timing. This is not an issue that has been percolating-it has been a matter of settled law for 10 years and seems to be working," NRF's David French said. "We think this is politically motivated."

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John Waage has covered politics and analyzed elections for CBN News since 1980, including primaries, conventions, and general elections. 

He also analyzes the convulsive politics of the Middle East.