Personnel are policy

The Dems may do something to materially improve voters’ lives. Maybe.

Cory Doctorow
3 min readJan 10, 2022


The drowning elephant sculptures at the La Brea tar pits; an Uber sign is sinking into the tar. Monopoly’s ‘Rich Uncle Pennybags’ is exiting the frame bottom left, holding a bag of money.

It’s hard not to freak out, watching Biden get punked by Joe Manchin over Build Back Better. Manchin’s transparent ruse — splitting the infrastructure bill from BBB — was obviously a prelude to a betrayal.

Thanks to Dem leadership’s foolish error, the party that holds the House, the Senate and the Oval Office will go into the mid-terms and the next presidential election having failed to deliver on the vast majority of their campaign promises.

Having failed to deliver material improvements to voters’ lives, they are going to struggle to win elections. Joe Manchin seems hell-bent on electing Donald Trump president again in 2024. It’s hard to say whether this is more disgusting or depressing. Maybe both.

The sole thing keeping me going is the action in the administrative agencies, where genuine progressives with real political acumen have been promoted to positions of real power. Personnel really are policy, and the administrative agencies are where the rubber meets the road. In a typical day, the average American is unlikely to feel the effect of a Congress-made law, but the agencies’ policies dictate everything from their working conditions to the quality of their air and water to the conditions in their kids’ schools.

Here’s a great example. Biden’s National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is poised to turn worker misclassification into an “unfair labor practice,” which will give it scope to punish employers who treat their employees as contractors.

As Harold Meyerson writes in The American Prospect, NLRB general counsel Jennifer Abruzzo has asked the regional attorneys working under her to submit cases that raise the issue. If she sets a precedent on the matter, it will instantly transform companies from Uber to Lyft to FedEx into lawbreakers and force them to reclassify all those contractors as employees at the stroke of a pen.

This is the kind of thing that would vastly improve the lives of millions of workers and restructure whole industries in durable ways. For example, the 12,000 misclassified truck drivers servicing the Port…



Cory Doctorow

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