Republicans aim to end all “job-killing regulations” — especially those that, according to House Speaker John Boehner, are “strangling” business with detailed requirements over health, safety, the environment, corporate governance and finance.It is obscene to see Obama working harder and harder to validate Republican claims while ignoring the political platform of the Democratic Party and putting no time into advancing his own party's agenda.
Here’s another instance of where the White House’s attempt to preempt Republican rhetoric (the President said last week his administration would root out all nonsensical and inefficient regulation) ends up legitimizing it — and reframing the public debate around an issue that’s hardly central to what ails America.
The reason we have continued sky-high unemployment has nothing to do with excessive regulation. There was no sudden outpouring of federal regulation in 2007 before the economy tanked and millions lost their jobs.
If anything, the economy unraveled because of too little regulation. Wall Street went on a binge, remember? The Street could get almost free money from the Fed (which had reduced interest rates to near zero) and do just about whatever it wanted with it. Thirty years of deregulation, culminating with the dismantling of Glass-Steagall and the abject failure of regulators at the Fed and the SEC to use the authority they still had, enabled the Street to make bundles of money and expose the rest of the economy to unprecedented levels of risk.
There’s no necessary tradeoff between regulations and jobs. Regulations that are designed well — that tell industry what to achieve by a certain date but don’t dictate exactly how (such as fuel economy standards) — can generate innovation as companies compete to find the most efficient solutions. And innovations can lead to more jobs as they spawn new products and industries.American politics has degenerated to slogans and sound bites. The idea that governance requires sophistication, complexity, and dedication has been thrown out the window. The Republicans want to substitute the kind of mindless mob slogan chanting you see in North Korea in place of the lengthy and intelligent debates that the founding fathers of the US Constitution endured in working out the necessary compromises. Read the Federalist Papers to find out that government isn't done by slogans. It is done by reasoned argument and hard work to pound out a compromise.
Even where there is a tradeoff — where regulations are costly and those costs result in fewer jobs — it still makes sense to opt for regulation when the public benefits exceed the costs to industry. We could have millions more jobs tomorrow if we eviscerated all health and safety regulations and allowed our air to turn yellow and our rivers and lakes to become fetid stinkholes. But that would be dumb.
“Job-killing regulations” is a silly phrase that substitutes for real thought. And it’s a distraction from the hard work of creating more jobs in America.