A year into the Trump administration, Alex Acosta’s Department of Labor is finally doing something conservative. It is inducting Ronald Reagan into the Department of Labor Hall of Honor.
Reagan led the Screen Actors Guild for many years. His induction may well be deserved. At any rate, it’s a nice gesture.
But the gesture should not obscure Acosta’s actions and, more importantly, his inaction. Acosta has declined to remove the liberal Obama-Perez holdovers who comprise the Labor Department’s important Administrative Review Board. He has declined to require department employees to stop using the Obama Administration’s aggressively liberal interpretation of what constitutes “independent contractors” under wage and hour law with respect to home health registries.
Acosta has also declined to disturb the Labor Department’s Obama-Perez era pro-illegal immigrant policies. Similarly, he has declined to rein in the Department’s OFCCP, which imposes race-preferential employment practices on federal contractors.
Honoring Ronald Reagan is a Hall of Fame worthy example the double game Acosta has played for years. It enables him to flash some conservatism, while doing nothing substantive to manifest it — nothing that would alienate Democrats and thus stand in his way of future confirmation to, say, a federal judgeship.
Conservatives get gestures. Liberals get policies.
It reminds me of when Stanford Law School realized it was leaving alumni money on the table by veering so hard to the left. Hoping to remedy this, the law school announced with fanfare that it was naming a fountain after William Rehnquist, an alum. Through this gesture, it sought (unsuccessfully, I’m pretty sure) to attract contributions from alienated conservative alums.
With the Reagan induction, Acosta has given conservatives a “fountain” at the DOL Perhaps one day he will give us something more meaningful.