In a major overreach of federal government power — even by coronavirus-era standards — President Joe Biden plans to deputize American businesses to carry out his de facto national vaccine mandate.
In a speech on Thursday evening, Biden announced a sweeping new order requiring businesses to force their employees to get vaccinated or submit to weekly COVID testing.
The forthcoming Labor Department emergency rule will affect around 80 million private-sector employees. Companies that don’t comply will face $14,000 fines. The Wall Street Journal reports that fellow employees will likely be the ones to police the law, fostering workplace animosity.
“We’ve been patient,” claimed Biden paternalistically, “but our patience is wearing thin.”
Numerous lawmakers, including Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., Gov. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., and Gov. Doug Ducey, R-Ariz., slammed the order as unconstitutional. Glenn Greenwald, a writer and former constitutional lawyer, tweeted: “A change this sweeping — one that forces companies to fire all workers who refuse to comply with new rules the private companies have not chosen to implement — should be enacted by Congress, not unilaterally decreed by the President with vague and broad regulatory authorities.”
The order is limited to businesses with 100 employees or more, yet if allowed to stand, it’s likely only a matter of time until it’s expanded to all small employers. (The Small Business Administration generally defines a small business as an employer with fewer than 500 employees.)
The mandate may also be broadened in the future to require businesses also to police their customers’ vaccination status — as is required in foreign jurisdictions such as some Canadian provinces.
The mandate comes at the worst time for businesses already suffering from a significant labor shortage. On Wednesday, the Labor Department revealed that the number of unfilled jobs nationwide has risen to a record 10.9 million.
This order will add a significant new barrier to hiring. Some chronically understaffed businesses will have to fire workers who refuse to submit to the rule, forcing these companies to further reduce capacity and economic output to match their staffing level constraints.
The mandate also adds a new expense for businesses in the form of tracking and ongoing testing of their employees. It requires companies to offer paid time off for their employees to get vaccinated. Many businesses are already operating on slim profit margins in the current stagflating economy. Some will be forced to offset the costs of this burden by reducing wages and job opportunities.
Businesses that can afford to comply with this mandate may not be able to do so for long. Over the Labor Day long weekend, a comprehensive list of Democrats’ proposed tax hikes leaked. The document lists 25 separate tax increases that Democrats want to include in the reconciliation bill they’re barnstorming through Congress and plan to pass this month.
Proposed tax hikes include well-known ones such as raising the corporate rate, curtailing the 20 percent small business tax deduction, taxing the children and grandchildren of business owners, and roughly doubling the capital gains tax. These success taxes penalize entrepreneurs that have worked for decades to create value with their business.
The Democrats’ tax hike wish list also includes scarcely mentioned items such as implementing new taxes on retirement accounts, plastics, and businesses whose CEO to worker pay gap is too large for Democrats’ liking. If passed, these tax hikes would crush many small businesses and make it far more difficult for others to comply with Biden’s vaccine mandate.
Vaccination is the best way to prevent a bad case of COVID-19. But it’s more effective and more American to spread this message by persuasion rather than compulsion.
Benjamin Franklin warned against giving up essential liberty for temporary safety. Businesses and ordinary Americans must constantly fight against President Biden and Democrats who are all too happy to make this trade.
Alfredo Ortiz is the president and CEO of the Job Creators Network.