The Administration of President George W. Bush is drawing to a close after nearly eight years in office. Therefore, it is time to assess who best fulfilled the promises made during the 2000 Presidential campaign. In my opinion that prize goes to Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, the only Cabinet official to see the Bush Administration through from the beginning.
The President's first choice for Labor Secretary was invalidated on a technicality before ever taking office. Elaine Chao quickly was named as a replacement. At the time she was a senior official at the Heritage Foundation. The wife of Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Mrs. Chao is the Cabinet official with one of the lowest profiles. Yet she has the best record of accomplishment of anyone in the Bush Administration.
Mrs. Chao is a native of Taiwan, who came to the United States when she was only eight years of age. She, more than anyone in the Bush Administration, has an appreciation for the United States as a land of opportunity. Beginning with President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Administration the Labor Department was a wholly-owned subsidiary of organized labor. Even under Republican Administrations this was true. President Ronald W. Reagan changed that by appointing Raymond J. Donovan, a businessman, as Secretary. Donovan enraged the unions by doing away with their various slush funds. The unions went after him and literally drove him from office. President George H. W. Bush appointed Elizabeth H. Dole, now Senator from North Carolina, to the position. She held the line against the unions but fundamentally did not reform the bureaucracy.
That job was left for Mrs. Chao, who has promulgated regulations which have made the transparency of union expenditures a cornerstone of her efforts. Although she is known for fairness, labor unions despise her. Yet she has handled herself in such a way that she has avoided most direct confrontation. In 1959 one-third of all American workers belonged to a labor union. By 1980 under a quarter of the workforce held a union card. Today that number stands at only 12.1%. If government workers are taken out of the equation the number stands at just 7.5%. Accordingly, Mrs. Chao considers herself Secretary of all workers and not just of those who belong to unions.