Hans Bader on disabled-hiring quotas

Building on my post of yesterday, Competitive Enterprise Institute scholar Hans Bader makes several additional points about the Department of Labor’s new hiring quotas for disabled workers at federal contractors:

  • Under the regulations, Bader points out, contractors will be obliged to aim for a seven percent quota for each division, a significantly harder task than if it were just a company-wide quota.
  • Dodgy terminology to conceal the reality of quotas is nothing new; in fact, there’s a long history of federal officials’ resorting to euphemism and vagueness to characterize quotas as benchmarks, goals, and so forth.
  • While disabled quotas, unlike racial quotas, do not raise immediate red flags of unconstitutionality, there is serious doubt as to whether they are actually a lawful application of the statutes Congress has passed in this area. While one such law does refer vaguely to affirmative action for the disabled, that does not necessarily provide a broad enough basis to authorize the new scheme.
  • Will compliance and paperwork on this and a related veteran-quota measure cost federal contractors $6 billion a year, as the Associated General Contractors of America has it? Or less than one-fifth that sum, as OFCCP insists? And does OFCCP face even the slightest consequences if its estimates turn out to be low-balls and the contractors turn out to be right?

[cross-posted, with adaptations, at Cato at Liberty. Edited final paragraph 9/23 to clarify that two quota programs are involved]


  • Consequences? Ha! People work for the government precisely to avoid facing consequences. Look no further than Lois Lerner who, despite being caught red-handed in the IRS scandal, was given a 5 month paid vacation then resigned.

    Anyway, Bader ends with this: “OFCCP Director Patricia Shiu rejected that figure, saying the disability hiring rule is expected to cost between $349 million and $659 million.”

    She may as well have said “I have no idea how much this will cost.” Think about that estimate — her upper band in almost twice the lower! Only the government would greenlight a major project in the face of that level of uncertainty. Well, I take that back. I think OFCCP is absolutely certain that their estimates are wrong. They just don’t care.

  • While I agree with you in principle, I would point out that simply having a 1-2x range of cost is not that much of an issue. It is often the case with projects and purchases. “A Dollar or two” comes to mind.

    Even on TOTAL dollars($310m range), the amount isn’t that great compared to MANY federal projects.

    That last bit is the problem I have with it. Why do we let the feds spend so much at ALL?

  • Maybe all these employers could start to count everyone who is overweight, wears glasses or hearing aids, has arthritis or back pain, fertility issues, smokes, etc, as disabled, and thereby meet these new quotas. There are also a LOT of disabled vets (like me) who don’t really have any debilitating conditions who could be counted. Think of it as a game – every time some part of the govt declares some new condition to be a disability, your quota is easier to satisfy to another part of the govt.

  • OB, I am not sure about that. If a contractor quoted you a price of $20,000 or $40,000 to repair your roof, would you proceed, or try to get a more precise estimate? The saying a “dollar or two” doesn’t really count because both amounts are deminimis.

  • DEM,

    I agree with the idea but not your point. In relation to my income, $20,000 is a significant part of my years earnings. From the perspective of the Federal government, with annual ‘income’ of an estimated $2.7 this year (worse if we look at spending) $310M only about 1/100th of one percent. That would be the equivalent of about $11 on $100k NET income(8-9 if you compared with spending). Lunch at Five Guys and closer to my dollar or two than the roof difference in relative terms.

    What was it that Everett Dirksen supposedly said: A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.

    I don’t oppose the fact that we spend that much on something. I oppose the fact that we spend ANYTHING on MOST things. If more attention was paid to doing less, seeing less being paid would get our attention.