Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Obama Tries On A Centrist Fig Leaf

Reading Obama's op-ed in the WSJ today, the cognitive dissonance almost made my head explode. In his op-ed, Obama promised to make our regulatory bureaucracy business friendly by making some cosmetic changes. It was surreal. It was tragic-comic. It was like reading an op-ed from Kristin Davis on the benefits of virginity and chastity. It was like reading an essay from Carol Yager on diet tips.

When Obama came into office, we were already one of the most regulated countries in the world. The costs of complying with the massive regulation effected all aspects of our economy and, in the words of Jeff Pope, "destroyed our manufacturing sector." Last year, the SBA estimated that it had cost each small business in America in excess of $10,000 per employee to comply with our regulatory scheme. And not a dime of that added any value to the goods or services those businesses produced.

That regulatory burden has only gotten worse under Obama. More importantly, Obama has waiting in the wings a regulatory tsunami ready to wash over us. First up is The Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Act, which does everything but address the causes of our financial melt-down. In the words of Charles Krauthammer, it gives:

. . . the government unprecedented power in the financial marketplace. Its 2,300 pages will create at least 243 new regulations that will affect not only, as many assume, the big banks, but just about everyone — including, as noted in one summary (the Wall Street Journal), “storefront check cashiers, city governments, small manufacturers, homebuyers and credit bureaus.”

And that of course pales in comparison to Obamacare, which not only creates a massive new regulatory scheme, but also places it beyond challenge in the Courts, making the administrators into petty dictatorships:

The new law creates 68 grant programs, 47 bureaucratic entities, 29 demonstration or pilot programs, six regulatory systems, six compliance standards and two entitlements.

Getting that massive enterprise up and running will be next to impossible. So Democrats streamlined the process by granting Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius the authority to make judgments that can’t be challenged either administratively or through the courts.

And that is only the new regulatory bureaucracies. The old one's have been no less radical under the guidance of Obama. The EPA, with their decision to regulate carbon dioxide despite Congress's refusal to pass cap and trade, is now threatening our energy infrastructure and, with it, our entire economy. The FCC, with their decision to take over regulation of the internet on the ostensible grounds that, at some point in the future, there might be problems with internet access, threatens to choke off economic growth in that nascent sector. Then there are the agencies under Sec. of the Interior Ken Salazar. He is using their regulatory power to destroy our domestic oil industry and to put ever more of our land and coastal regions off limits to mining and drilling. Given that we rely on coal for most of our electricity and given that our purchase of foreign oil accounts for 62% of our annual trade deficit, that seems suicidal.

So how did we come to this? Art. I Sec. I of our Constitution provides that "all legislative powers" of our federal government are "vested in . . . Congress." The Constitution makes no provision for regulatory agencies, let alone the unilateral creation of regulations by those agencies that function with the force of law. This is not to suggest that such agencies are unconstitutional; clearly, after a century of jurisprudence, that question has been asked and answered. But in our current situation, Congress is no longer the sole - or arguably even the most important - federal legislative body. We now far more resemble the EU, an anti-democratic socialist bureaucracy, than we resemble America circa 1783. It is an extra-constitutional travesty.

Obama, in his op-ed today, indicates no intention of changing this trajectory for massive new regulations. He indicates no intention of reigning in the EPA, the FCC or Ken Salazar, regardless of how destructive they are to our economy. So just what is he doing? Obama used the op-ed to announce that he has issued an Executive Order directing his vast regulatory bureaucracy to . . . :

. . . ensure that regulations protect our safety, health and environment while promoting economic growth. And it orders a government-wide review of the rules already on the books to remove outdated regulations that stifle job creation and make our economy less competitive. It's a review that will help bring order to regulations that have become a patchwork of overlapping rules, the result of tinkering by administrations and legislators of both parties and the influence of special interests in Washington over decades.

This as the centerpiece of Obama's effort to portray himself as a new found centrist? It defies belief. It is throwing a new coat of paint on a rusted out 1980 Yugo and trying to sell it as a 2010 Ferrari. It is pure con job from a shameless scam artist. It was like the sales job he tried to do on us two years ago, when, after signing the $787 billion Stimulus, he held out his decision to order the minuscule savings of $17 billion as proof that he was a deficit hawk.

Nothing is going to happen to turn around the business climate in America until Obama is voted out of office in 2012 - and God help our country if he is not. That said, there are two steps that Congress should take immediately to reign in the out of control regulatory bureaucracy. Step one is a law requiring Congress to affirmatively approve each and every new regulation before it becomes binding. Step two is a law that sunsets every regulation every ten years, requiring Congress to debate them and vote on whether to reauthorize them. Only that would restore us to the balance that our Founders had in mind when they drafted our Constitution.

Others Who Have Posted On This Topic:
Q&O - Just words? Obama on a “21st Century regulatory” regime
JustOneMinute - One Of These Is Not Like The Other
Legal Insurrection - Obama Brought The EPA To Joe Manchin's Cap & Trade Fight
Michelle Malkin - The Mother Of All Job-Stifling Regulations
Patterico - Obama Announces "Smart" Regulations
The Foundry - Obama on Overregulation: Less than Meets the Eye
Stop the ACLU - Obama Now A Regulation Slayer? Hardly
City Journal - Backdoor Big Government

Welcome, Larwyn's Linx readers.

1 comment:

Ex-Dissident said...

GW, I used to be able to listen to conservative talk radio on my commute to work but this is no longer the case. I now have 2 choices masquerading as conservatives who also tout this change in Obama and how wonderful it is to finally have a president who represents all Americans. I think this can be a litmus test for people: those who tout Obama's new found centrism are either fool or disguised radical leftists. While driving to work, I don't care to listen to either.