President Barack Obama says we’re the reason for the nation’s economic problems (the most pressing of which is 9.1 percent unemployment) — and government is the answer. Rep. Darrell Issa says the exact opposite. (Bet you can guess which one I agree with more!) In a new opinion piece out today, Issa points to the expanded regulatory state — and a broken regulatory process — under the Obama administration as a significant source of the nation’s economic travails:
The bottom line is government isn’t the answer to our nation’s unemployment crisis, but it is the problem and it’s time to get government out of the way of our nation’s job creators.
In total, the administration has imposed 75 new major regulations costing more than $380 billion over 10 years.
Right now, there are a number of economically significant regulations in the pipeline, which, if finalized, could result in significant costs on the economy, in some cases, a single regulation will impose a cost of at least $100 million annually on the economy.
Essentially, the administration has presided over a regulatory expansion that has been completely negligent of its economic impact.
But beyond the actual costs of individual regulations, we have found a deeper, more systemic problem with the regulatory process itself that, if allowed to continue unchecked, will have devastating consequences for our nation’s economy.
Simply put, the regulatory process is broken, being manipulated and exploited in an effort to reward allies of the administration such as environmental groups, trial lawyers and unions. The federal regulatory agencies charged with serving as watchdogs over the regulatory process have failed to take meaningful action to address the breakdown in the regulatory development and implementation process.
Issa’s piece builds on the findings of a recent report from the committee he chairs. The report details the high costs — in dollars and jobs — the country has paid for the president’s determination to increase regulations.
Those costs aren’t negligible — and yet the president would prefer to tout a jobs plan that not even Democrats view as economically or politically expedient than begin to implement regulatory reform. He talks a big game and occasionally throws a bone to his on-again off-again critics, but is deaf to the persistent pleas for regulatory rollback from folks like Issa. As recently as January 2011, Obama issued an executive order entitled, “Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review,” and, this summer, in what was touted as a major victory for Republicans, he retreated on air quality standards. I wrote then that his reversal on those standards would only be a first step worth celebrating if it led to more concessions on regulations. It hasn’t.
It’ll take a lot more than a symbolic EO and the elimination of one expensive rule (albeit the most expensive of those identified at the request of House Speaker John Boehner) to improve the business climate. By virtually any measure, whether by the number of pages in the federal register or the size of regulatory agencies, regulations have increased astronomically under Obama. From the Committee’s report:
The number of pages in the Federal Register is at an all-time high. Pages devoted to final rules rose by 20 percent between 2009 and 2010, and proposed rules have increased from 2,044 in 2009 to 2,439 in 2010. …
In addition, federal regulatory agency budgets are on the rise. Regulatory agencies have seen their budgets grow by 16 percent over the past three years. Investor’s Business Daily summarized it well when they reported that “[i]f the federal government’s regulatory operation were a business, it would be one of the 50 biggest in the country in terms of revenues, and the third-largest in terms of employees, with more people working for it than McDonald’s, Ford, Disney and Boeing combined. As evidence, employment at regulatory agencies has climbed 13 percent since President Obama took office, and the number of staff working on regulatory matters is on schedule to increase at a rate of 10,000 new regulatory employees per year in 2011 and 2012. The number of full-time regulatory employees is expected to reach an all-time high of 291,676 in 2012. Meanwhile, since President Obama took office, private sector jobs have declined by 5.6 percent.
And ask yourself: What value, in terms of GDP, are all those agency employees creating? That’s not to say none do valuable work (they’re Americans in need of jobs, as well!) or that we should have no regulation — as Issa writes, “There are plenty of good regulations that keep us safe and protect our environment and resources” — but the majority of Americans believe businesses and consumers are vastly over-regulated, and the goal, at any rate, should be to grow the economy to create jobs — not to grow the government to create jobs. But, then, that’s really the problem, isn’t it? I’m not sure the president would agree with me on that. Oh, he’d say he does — but his actions say otherwise.