On Tuesday, President Obama met with his so-called Council on Jobs and Competitiveness to discuss its recommendations for the U.S. economy. Despite the panel being stacked with cronies and rent-seekers, its recommendations were mostly sensible. The council recommended aggressively pushing to develop U.S. energy resources, streamlining federal regulations and reforming the corporate tax code to reduce the rate and spur international competitiveness.
In his opening comments Obama said, “I’ve personally emphasized to the White House team and to the cabinet the importance of aggressively implementing the recommendations of this job council.” The facts suggest otherwise.
On Wednesday, the president spiked the Keystone XL pipeline, preventing tens of thousands of jobs from being created and weakening precisely the type of energy infrastructure that the jobs council recommended. To quote the council’s report, “Policies that facilitate the safe, thoughtful and timely development of pipeline, transmission and distribution projects are necessary.” But what if such a development comes into conflict with ideologically motivated, powerful environmental special interests? We now know where Obama comes down.
What about streamlining federal regulations? On Tuesday Obama said, “I tasked federal agencies to cut inefficient or excessively burdensome regulations, and … the preliminary results are exciting.” But nobody other than Obama’s left-wing base has found the progress particularly exciting.
Obama touted estimated 10-year savings in compliance costs of $10 billion, or $1 billion per year; even if the annual federal regulatory burden stayed at the 2008 level of $1.75 trillion per year, that would mean virtually indiscernible savings of 0.057%. But the federal regulatory burden is hardly standing still; it’s actually skyrocketing at an unprecedented pace, led by an EPA regulatory onslaught that includes dozens of rules that impose billions of dollars in new costs.
The Heritage Foundation estimated that just through the first half of last year new Obama regulations added $38 billion in compliance costs. The EPA’s newly finalized Utility MACT rule, its most expensive rule in history, will cost as much as $11 billion according to the EPA’s own estimates. That’s more than all of the savings Obama is touting from regulatory reform. More realistic estimates suggest the cost of Utility MACT and other new EPA rules could be more than $300 billion, putting millions of jobs at risk.
An analysis of just this year’s new regulations — and we’re only 18 days into the year — by Wayne Crews of the Competitive Enterprise Institute confirms that Obama’s regulatory rampage continues unabated, notwithstanding the recommendations of the jobs council. Crews reports that in the first 18 days of the year, there are already 115 new final regulations that occupy 2,609 pages in the Federal Register. Eighteen of those rules have been designated economically significant, generally indicating an economic cost of $100 million or more.
The biggest regulatory laugher was Obama’s comments on the Federal Communications Commission: “The FCC, prompted by our request but also due to some excellent work by Julius Genachowski, they’ve already eliminated 190 rules.”
Because Genachowski has visited the White House about a hundred times and is clearly taking his marching orders from Obama, we can stop pretending like the FCC is an independent agency.
The key point is that this is the same FCC that manufactured for itself from whole cloth the authority to regulate broadband Internet providers, despite the fact Congress and the American people resoundingly rejected the idea. Over time, that regulation could crush the most vibrant sector of the American economy. The FCC broke with all precedent to release a staff report to kill the AT&T/T-Mobile merger, sacrificing tens of thousands of jobs and billions in investment to reward left-wing ideological interests. The FCC has also implemented mandatory data roaming requirements. And the FCC has relentlessly attempted to transfer ill-fitting regulatory frameworks from the old monopoly telephone system into the competitive broadband world.
In short, it simply doesn’t matter how many old regulations are cleared off the books when an agency is implementing an aggressive slate of new rules that dwarf them in cost and complexity.
Obama isn’t doing any better on tax reform. While bipartisan efforts to make the U.S. more competitive by broadening the base and lowering the rate on the corporate income tax have gained momentum on the Hill, the president has been missing in action. And the president’s budget is widely expected to again propose ending the deferral of taxes on foreign-sourced income, making matters worse by driving corporate headquarters abroad instead of taking the more sensible approach of allowing tax-free repatriation of foreign-sourced income the way the rest of the world does.
The bottom line is that Obama continues to pay lip-service to job creation, but his actions betray his contempt even for the job creation policies recommended by his own jobs council.
Phil Kerpen is vice president for policy at Americans for Prosperity and author of “Democracy Denied: How Obama is Ignoring You and Bypassing Congress to Radically Transform America – and How to Stop Him,” available at www.DemocracyDenied.org.