The Obama Administration has set records for new pages of federal regulations, issuing more “midnight” regulations during the President’s last days in office – the lame-duck period after November’s election – than any other. The conservative American Action Forum describes 31 new regulations as “economically significant,” costing at least $100 million annually.
The burden falls heaviest on small businesses, costing each an estimated $30,000 per employee, and the economy as a whole $2 trillion every year. As a result of regulations such as Obamacare, small businesses are disappearing and jobs along with them. The labor force participation rate is at a generational low, and the real unemployment rate may be as high as 10 percent, taking into account Americans who have given up looking for work or stuck in part-time jobs.
Big-government liberals often describe federal regulations, including those restricting energy production, transportation and home construction, as protecting Americans from harm. Some reasonable protections do. However, looking at the latest economic and even health figures, it’s clear the dramatic expansion of Washington’s bureaucratic power during the Obama years has created more problems than it has solved. Economic and wage growth have been minimal, home ownership has declined, and the personal toll on the average citizen, losing sight of the American Dream, has been severe.
For the first time in decades, average life expectancy in the United States dropped in 2015, a phenomenon which has occurred just a few times in the modern era. Substance abuse and suicide are on the rise. But experts say, because a number of health problems are also on the rise, it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of rising mortality rates. This, despite the Administration’s most expansive new regulation: Obamacare is a failure by the most the important measure, our health!
At the same time he was conducting a massive federal takeover of the health care system, the President began to unravel other important regulations designed to prevent illegal drug trafficking, for instance. Lax border and immigration controls have contributed to a surge of heroin and opioid-related overdose deaths across the country, especially in my home state of Tennessee, where Mexican heroin and Chinese fentanyl, its deadlier synthetic cousin, are rampant.
As a primary care physician and father, the surge of addiction and fatalities is particularly troubling.
The President recently canceled a visa-tracking system that helped keep our country safe after 9/11, underscoring the irony of his latest regulatory spasm: rules the Obama Administration does enforce do harm, while rules it does not enforce do more. My goal in the new Congress, working with soon-to-be President Donald Trump, is to reverse this perverse equation.
Already, Republicans in the House have introduced big changes to the Obama regulatory regime. In the first weeks of the new Congress, we passed laws to overturn midnight regulations, require congressional approval for any major ones, and to overhaul the regulatory process itself, changes that would grow business both small and large, jobs, wages and overall opportunity.
Recently, the House and Senate also agreed on a process to repeal Obamacare. Health saving accounts, tax incentives, and an end to insurance monopolies, among other solutions, would deliver wider insurance coverage at lower costs to consumers and taxpayers, in addition to higher quality care. With the power to take charge of their own lives, fewer Americans would turn to debilitating government programs for relief, or worse to deadly substances.
We’re striking laws that hurt Americans and will enforce the ones that really matter. No wonder surveys show optimism in this country climbing, exposing yet another irony of the Obama years. As the current president prepares to leave office, it seems hope and change is finally arriving.
Rep. Scott DesJarlais, M.D. represents the people of Tennessee’s fourth district congressional in the U.S. House of Representatives.