A typically self-serving and delusional op-ed by Barack Obama appears in today’s Wall Street Journal. In it, he seems to be claiming that he’s really a free market kind of guy, and that burdensome government regulations can be counterproductive (really?). He then goes on to claim that he has always known this, and that this is how he has governed the past two years. I’m not making this up. Of course in the midst of making this claim, he can’t help contradicting himself since, at his core, he is the most anti-business, ant-free market president we’ve ever had. Let’s take a look:
For two centuries, America’s free market has not only been the source of dazzling ideas and path-breaking products, it has also been the greatest force for prosperity the world has ever known. That vibrant entrepreneurialism is the key to our continued global leadership and the success of our people.
Really? Then why do so much to destroy entrepreneurialism and the free-market? How is Obamacare consistent with that “vibrant entrepreneurialism of which you speak? How do high taxes incentivize entrepreneurs to invest capital in the R&D required to produce new “path-breaking” products? How do we inspire more entrepreneurialism by demonizing entrepreneurs. Given your vast history of business success and self-described oratorical “gift“, surely you can explain this apparent contradiction to us serfs in the hinterlands.
But throughout our history, one of the reasons the free market has worked is that we have sought the proper balance. We have preserved freedom of commerce while applying those rules and regulations necessary to protect the public against threats to our health and safety and to safeguard people and businesses from abuse.
So, the free market is great as long as it’s not really free. Thank God we have all those wonderful government apparatchiks to protect us from ourselves.
From child labor laws to the Clean Air Act to our most recent strictures against hidden fees and penalties by credit card companies, we have, from time to time, embraced common sense rules of the road that strengthen our country without unduly interfering with the pursuit of progress and the growth of our economy.
At a time you say banks should extend more credit to more people, how does passing laws restricting their ability to lend money to those with less than perfect credit help? Shouldn’t consumers be free to make their own decisions, and not have those decisions made for them by…someone like you? Is that your idea of common sense?
Sometimes, those rules have gotten out of balance, placing unreasonable burdens on business—burdens that have stifled innovation and have had a chilling effect on growth and jobs.
Gee…ya think? You mean like Obamacare, forcing auto companies to produce cars consumers don’t want, ever increasing rules and regulations issued from your “czars”, most of whom have ever worked in the private sector, all of whom have a visceral suspicion (if not hatred) of free markets, etc., etc., etc.?
At other times, we have failed to meet our basic responsibility to protect the public interest, leading to disastrous consequences. Such was the case in the run-up to the financial crisis from which we are still recovering. There, a lack of proper oversight and transparency nearly led to the collapse of the financial markets and a full-scale Depression.
So the financial collapse, which was caused by too much government involvement in the mortgage markets (via Fannie and Freddie which enticed banks to provide mortgages to those who couldn’t afford them by promising to buy the paper), is evidence that we need more government involvement in the markets?
Over the past two years, the goal of my administration has been to strike the right balance.
Obviously. That’s why the economy is growing at more than 9% and unemployment is less than 3%. Oh wait, reverse that.
And today, I am signing an executive order that makes clear that this is the operating principle of our government.
This order requires that federal agencies 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.
Where necessary, we won’t shy away from addressing obvious gaps: new safety rules for infant formula; procedures to stop preventable infections in hospitals; efforts to target chronic violators of workplace safety laws. But we are also making it our mission to root out regulations that conflict, that are not worth the cost, or that are just plain dumb.
You’ve been president for two years now. Shouldn’t this have been your “operating principle since day one? What has been your operating principle the first two years? If anyone believes that any regulatory “review” by you and your czars will result in anything other than more job-stifling rules and regulations enforced by an ever-increasing force of unionized bureaucrats, I have a bridge to sell them.
For instance, the FDA has long considered saccharin, the artificial sweetener, safe for people to consume. Yet for years, the EPA made companies treat saccharin like other dangerous chemicals. Well, if it goes in your coffee, it is not hazardous waste. The EPA wisely eliminated this rule last month.
As Ben Stein would say…”Wowwww”. This is obviously the silver bullet the economy needs. What a fantastic tradeoff. The EPA, by fiat, has decided to regulate that evil carbon dioxide stuff (which we all emit when we breathe) and, in return, has stopped regulating saccharin. Absolutely brilliant! But why stop there? Your czars should immediately pass a new rule mandating energy companies to create a new, 21st century energy source from saccharin. I mean really, the energy companies don’t have anything else to do given your ban on drilling. This will not only create those wonderful “green jobs” that so enthrall you, but provide the economic boost you need for reelection as well. You can get rid of that “Together we Thrive” campaign slogan you unveiled at that pep rally last Wednesday (catchy as it was), and replace it with something more appropriate for your visionary thinking. Perhaps “Obama-Biden: Sweet Energy for the Future”. The possibilities are endless. Call Madison Avenue.
But creating a 21st-century regulatory system is about more than which rules to add and which rules to subtract. As the executive order I am signing makes clear, we are seeking more affordable, less intrusive means to achieve the same ends—giving careful consideration to benefits and costs. This means writing rules with more input from experts, businesses and ordinary citizens. It means using disclosure as a tool to inform consumers of their choices, rather than restricting those choices. And it means making sure the government does more of its work online, just like companies are doing.
Experts? Like Cass Sunstein, Zeke Emmanuel, Van Jones, Tim Geithner, Janet Napolitano, Andy Stern, or Al Sharpton? I can’t wait to see what they come up with. I’m sure it will be as brilliant as everything else they’ve done so far.
We’re also getting rid of absurd and unnecessary paperwork requirements that waste time and money. We’re looking at the system as a whole to make sure we avoid excessive, inconsistent and redundant regulation. And finally, today I am directing federal agencies to do more to account for—and reduce—the burdens regulations may place on small businesses. Small firms drive growth and create most new jobs in this country. We need to make sure nothing stands in their way.
How about making the tax rates permanent to reduce uncertainty? How is Obamacare not a burden to employers? Will it help entice businesses to add to payroll? Isn’t the 1099 requirement an example of an excessive burden placed on small business (and every other business)?
One important example of this overall approach is the fuel-economy standards for cars and trucks. When I took office, the country faced years of litigation and confusion because of conflicting rules set by Congress, federal regulators and states.
The EPA and the Department of Transportation worked with auto makers, labor unions, states like California, and environmental advocates this past spring to turn a tangle of rules into one aggressive new standard. It was a victory for car companies that wanted regulatory certainty; for consumers who will pay less at the pump; for our security, as we save 1.8 billion barrels of oil; and for the environment as we reduce pollution.
Yes, I’m sure that forcing auto makers to make their cars even more expensive went over very well in Detroit. The city is thriving, after all, right? And labor union bosses should always be consulted as experts on growing the economy, given their stellar history in that area. And your record on energy security is above reproach. That drilling ban was and is a stroke of genius. Why develop our own resources with American workers when we can develop Brazilian resources with Brazilian resources?
Another example: Tomorrow the FDA will lay out a new effort to improve the process for approving medical devices, to keep patients safer while getting innovative and life-saving products to market faster.
This is hilarious. We’ll begin a “new effort”, whatever that means (it’s sufficiently vague to mean nothing at all), to ease the regulation of medical devices while at the same time making them more expensive with Obamacare’s medical device tax. This new Obama tax will mean less regulating by the FDA anyway since it will result in less new medical devices being developed and brought to market in the first place. Is this an example of “one step forward, three steps backward? I suspect so.
Despite a lot of heated rhetoric, our efforts over the past two years to modernize our regulations have led to smarter—and in some cases tougher—rules to protect our health, safety and environment. Yet according to current estimates of their economic impact, the benefits of these regulations exceed their costs by billions of dollars.
Really? Who made these “estimates”? Can we see some data, or will it remain as elusive as those vaunted college transcripts which prove your brilliance? Were these estimates made by the same people who continue to tell us Obamacare will reduce the budget deficit? It won’t.
This is the lesson of our history: Our economy is not a zero-sum game. Regulations do have costs; often, as a country, we have to make tough decisions about whether those costs are necessary. But what is clear is that we can strike the right balance. We can make our economy stronger and more competitive, while meeting our fundamental responsibilities to one another.
Great closing, Mr. President. I’m overwhelmed by your profundity. Economics is not a zero sum game (I guess that’s why we need to resort to class warfare), regulations have costs (but who cares what they are), we can strike the right balance (as evidenced by the great Obama economy), and we can make our economy stronger and more competitive by making it weaker and less competitive. Ah, the rhetorical brilliance of our Dear Leader. Who else can say so much while saying so little of substance? Well, that’s not entirely fair…there was that saccharin deregulation idea…
Update: More on Obama’s op-ed from David Harsanyi.