From land of op­por­tu­nity to red tape hell

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

Like so much of Pres­i­dent Obama’s agenda, the prom­ise of reg­u­la­tory re­form has proved en­tirely empty. Af­ter Democrats re­ceived a beat­down at the polls last Novem­ber, an ex­ec­u­tive or­der was dashed off promis­ing to pare back the job-killing reg­u­la­tions be­ing pumped out by fed­eral agen­cies that the pres­i­dent said “were just plain dumb.” On June 3, House Repub­li­cans called Mr. Obama’s bluff.

Ex­ec­u­tive Or­der 13563 set a dead­line of May 18 for pre­lim­i­nary plans from de­part­ments and agen­cies to stream­line op­er­a­tions and re­peal those dumb rules. Mr. Obama basked in wide­spread praise for his bold ini­tia­tive.

On June 3, how­ever, reg­u­la­tory czar Cass Sun­stein was forced to ad­mit to the House En­ergy and Com­merce Com­mit- tee that a grand to­tal of one agency had both­ered to com­ply; the Na­tional La­bor Re­la­tions Board had sub­mit­ted a onepage doc­u­ment in re­sponse.

“We learned to­day that the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s much cel­e­brated reg­u­la­tory re­form sim­ply does not ex­ist amongst the in­de­pen­dent agen­cies,” said a dis­ap­pointed Rep. Cliff Stearns, Florida Repub­li­can.

The U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce’s Wil­liam L. Ko­vacs tes­ti­fied in very con­crete terms how the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s reg­u­la­tory ex­cess is killing jobs.

Two coal-fired power plants — one in Ore­gon and one in New Jer­sey — shut down rather than in­stall hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars worth of equip­ment man­dated by an En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency pur­su­ing an ex­treme an­ti­in­dus­trial pol­icy.

“This is a highly dis­turb­ing trend, and one that will only con­tinue in 2011 with the is­suance of even more ma­jor rules,” warned Mr. Ko­vacs.

A 2010 Small Busi­ness Ad­min­is­tra­tion study placed the to­tal cost of fed­eral reg­u­la­tions at about $1.75 tril­lion an­nu­ally, cost­ing busi­nesses an av­er­age of $8,086 per worker and ren­der­ing em­ploy­ers ex­tremely leery of adding staff.

For his part, Mr. Obama brushed off the bad eco­nomic news on Fri­day, telling au­towork­ers at a Chrysler plant in Ohio that the fig­ures were “bumps on the road to re­cov­ery.”

What Mr. Obama de­scribes as bumps looks to Amer­i­cans like mas­sive moun­tains as far as the eye can see.

A sur­vey re­leased by the global busi­ness ad­vi­sory firm Alix Part­ners re­ported on June 3 that 61 per­cent of Amer­i­cans don’t ex­pect to re­cap­ture their pre-re­ces­sion life­styles un­til the spring of 2014 or later. More alarm­ingly, 10 per­cent said they’ve given up hope of ever re­cov­er­ing fi­nan­cially.

That dark as­sess­ment of the fu­ture stands in sharp con­trast to past be­lief in Amer­i­can ex­cep­tion­al­ism when the United States was viewed as the land of op­por­tu­nity. The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion is filled with ide­o­logues who don’t be­lieve in free en­ter­prise or the spirit of in­di­vid­u­al­ism. In­stead, they be­lieve they know what’s best for ev­ery­one else. They have no in­ter­est in di­al­ing back the reg­u­la­tions re­gard­less of the harm be­ing done to the econ­omy as a whole. In this fash­ion, the Amer­i­can dream is mor­ph­ing into a col­lec­tivist night­mare. The only hope is that the Amer­i­can pub­lic wakes up by 2012.

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