Red ink on the rise
Obama still drowning business in ocean of rules
When it comes to regulations, President Obama’s message to his conservative critics seems to be: Message received. Early last year, he vowed to crack down on overzealous rule-making, noting that the “rules have gotten out of balance” and “have had a chilling effect on growth and jobs.” He’s right — they have.
But actions speak louder than words, don’t they? Regardless of how tough the president may talk on regulation, his administration has enacted far more major regulations — and significantly more expensive ones — over the first three years of his presidency than the George W. Bush administration enacted during its first three years.
This runs counter to what we’ve heard from the president’s apologists. Over the past several months, they’ve been bragging about his rule-making record. As the president himself said during his most recent State of the Union address: “I’ve approved fewer regulations in the first three years of my presidency than my Republican predecessor did in his.”
But a new report from the Heritage Foundation, “Red Tape Rising,” shows just the opposite is true. This administration has been on a rule-making tear.
Specifically, during the three years of the Obama administration, 106 new major regulations have been imposed at a price tag of more than $46 billion annually — and that’s on top of nearly $11 billion in one-time implementation costs.
How does this compare to the number of major regulations that were imposed under President Bush? It’s almost four times higher. And the cost? About five times higher. Something’s “gotten out of balance,” all right. With so many rules being laid on the backs of businesses both large and small, is it any surprise that job creation has been so slow for much of the latest economic recovery?
In December, the National Federation of Independent Business asked small-business owners to name their single biggest problem. The No. 1 choice, named by 19 percent of those who responded, was “regulations and red tape.” It came in ahead of “poor sales” (though it’s easy to see how all these new rules depress sales). That’s up from 15 percent a year ago. Clearly, the regulatory burden is getting heavier.
You can be sure that the weight of that burden is being shared. The costs of these regulations are passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices and limited product choices. Take the price controls that bureaucrats slapped last year on the fees that banks may charge to process debit-card transactions. They prompted banks to cancel many rewards programs and free services. They also led to higher fees on checking accounts and credit cards.
Hardly an area of our lives goes untouched by regulation. The new rules for last year alone cover many consumer items, including refrigerators, freezers, clothes dryers, air conditioners and energy standards for fluorescent lights. There were new testing and labeling requirements for toys, limits on automotive emissions of “greenhouse gases,” requirements for posting federal labor rules and more explicit warnings for cigarette packages. The list goes on.
The main troublemaker? The 2010 Dodd-frank financial regulation law. It alone is responsible for 12 major rules — so far, that is. Hundreds more Dodd-frank rules remain to be written. Then there are the rules still to come from Obamacare and the Environmental Protection Agency’s global-warming crusade.
That’s why it’s crucial for Congress to take some common-sense steps now. It can start by requiring congressional approval of any new major regulations that agencies promulgate. Another why-haven’t-they-thought-of-itsooner solution: requiring that all major regulations have an expiration (sunset) date.
“This regulatory tide is not expected to ebb anytime soon,” warns “Red Tape Rising.” Let’s act now — before we’re all under water.
While this book’s subtitle is overly expansive, no one can deny that Ronald Reagan’s victory in the 1976 Texas Republican primary saved his presidential nomination campaign and opened the way for the Republican Party to dominate politics in the Lone Star state.
It was a remarkable election in many ways. By that time, Texans had become used to considering Republican presidential candidates, but they still voted solidly Democratic for state offices and legislators.
If it hadn’t been for one Democrat, there might never have been a Texas presidential primary in 1976, and Ronald Reagan might have faded into history. That year, one-term Sen. Lloyd Bentsen wanted to run for president. His key supporters had commissioned a poll that had found 67 percent of Texans liked the idea of a presidential primary in 1976. Bentsen consulted with Democratic legislators, suggesting they pass legislation the next year for such a primary.
They passed a bill that was tailor-made to help Bentsen. It even allowed him to run for re-election to his Senate seat while running for president. Early disappointments in the presidential sweepstakes, however, persuaded Bentsen to scale back his candidacy in the primary to that of “favorite son.” He was a bland campaigner, and Jimmy Carter was beginning to gobble up delegates elsewhere. By Election Day, many conservative Democrats had crossed over to vote Republican — for Ronald Reagan.
Until that time, the Republican Party in Texas was run by a small, clubby “establishment” headed by its one major elected official, Sen. John Tower. They were solidly behind President Ford for the nomination.
A few Texans had other ideas. Ray Barnhart, described by the author as “a brash, cantankerous 48year-old entrepreneur” and Ernest Angelo, the softspoken mayor of Midland, became the leaders of the Reagan movement in the state. Recruited as co-chairmen were activist Barbara Staff and Jimmy Lyon, head of an independent bank. They were convinced that the stars and planets were aligned for a Reagan victory, given pent-up conservative dissatisfaction with the Republican establishment and conservative Democratic dissatisfaction with Bentsen.
This dovetailed with a major change in Reagan’s strategy. He and his staff arrived in Racine, Wis., late on Monday, March 22. By then, he had lost New Hampshire, Florida and Illinois. North Carolina, from which we had just come, did not look promising.
Campaign manager John Sears put forth a bold plan: Stop campaigning in Wisconsin, go back to California, raise money for a half-hour nationally televised speech, then work on the May primaries, which would favor Reagan — beginning with Texas on May 1. This is what happened. Jimmy Lyon, the loyal conservative banker, lent the campaign the money. Reagan’s speech was broadcast on NBC and raised well over $1.25 million.
Back on the ground in Texas, Mr. Barnhart and Mr. Angelo were building a grass-roots network of Reagan supporters, intent on supplanting the evercautious establishment with energetic conservatives. Author Gilbert Garcia brings out the drama in the race and gives us lively, colorful portraits of players — Mr. Barnhart, Mr. Angelo, Ron Paul (the only Texan member of Congress to endorse Reagan), current Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Tower, among others.
Reagan won all 100 Texas delegates in the primary. Mr. Garcia says, “Without Reagan’s 1976 blowout, the American conservative movement would have lacked a catalyst, a unifying force.” From it, Texas has become a Republican state with clear majorities in both legislative chambers as well as statewide elected offices.
The author also thinks this grass-roots takeover of the Texas Republican Party 36 years ago was the template for the successful development of the Tea Party movement.
There are some errors in the book, but none is major. The author says that when Reagan first campaigned in Texas he was making “foreign policy and America’s military strength the focus of the campaign.” He calls this a new theme. It wasn’t. It had been field-tested beginning with Reagan’s arrival in Florida on March 5. From that day forward, there was a daily insert of new specifics on these twin issues in his stump speech. By the time he first campaigned in Texas, they had become the dominant themes.
One small correction: Mr. Garcia identifies Deaver & Hannaford Inc. as a law firm. It was a public affairs/public relations firm, the one that managed Reagan’s public program after he left the governorship and in whose suite he had his own office for five years.
Despite these glitches, “Reagan’s Comeback” is an absorbing read for anyone interested generally in politics and particularly in the elements of Ronald Reagan’s success.