Here’s something to think about: It’s against federal law for any private employer to make a hiring or promotion decision on the basis of either race or gender. But it’s not against the law for the federal government to do so. In fact, the reality of the federal workplace is that political appointees and career civil servants do it routinely in hiring new government employees. And if a group of federal departments and agencies have their way with a new regulation they’ve proposed, it will soon be routine among private employers as well.

The proposed rule is officially described in the Federal Register, where it was published Oct. 25, as the “Proposed Interagency Policy Statement Establishing Joint Standards for Assessing the Diversity Policies and Practices of Entities Regulated by the Agencies and Request for Comment.” Translated from the bureaucratese, that means, “Here comes yet another mandate from Washington telling private businesses to do what we tell them to do, not what we tell them not to do.” By the way, “proposed” is in the rule’s title mostly as a formality because there can be no doubt that this regulatory mandate will soon add hundreds more pages to the 165,000 already there in the code of federal regulations.

The agencies proposing the rule are a powerhouse lineup that includes the Department of the Treasury, Comptroller of the Currency, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, National Credit Union Administration, the Securities and Exchanges Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Board. In short, all of the key regulators of the U.S. financial system are behind this rule, which was in turn mandated by Section 342 of the Dodd-Frank Act passed by the Democrat-controlled Congress and signed by President Obama in July 2010.

Section 342 directs each of the agencies behind the rule to create a new Office of Minority and Women Inclusion, which “is responsible for all agency matters relating to diversity in management, employment and business activities.” The new office will also “develop standards for assessing the diversity policies and practices of entities regulated” by the agency it represents.

There are two points to be made here. As Washington Examiner columnist Diana Furtchgott-Roth wrote in a Real Clear Markets piece in July:

“Cabinet-level departments already have individual Offices of Civil Rights and Diversity. In addition, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Labor Department's Office of Federal Contract Compliance are charged with enforcing racial and gender discrimination laws.

“With the new financial regulation law, the federal government is moving from outlawing discrimination to setting up a system of quotas. Ultimately, the only way that financial firms doing business with the government would be able to comply with the law is by showing that a certain percentage of their workforce is female or minority.”

In other words, race- and gender-based hiring quotas are about to become mandatory. What a long way Washington has come since Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which explicitly outlawed such quotas.