Under the Obama administration, each year the government implements an average of 84 "economically-significant" new regulations, ones that each cost the economy $100 million or more annually.
There are more than 4,000 new regulations now being written, including hundreds of economically-significant ones, but any one of them is significant if it's the one that overturns your business model. If you were a worried entrepreneur, would you be eager to hire amid such uncertainty?
Regulators intend to act in the public interest. But the first part of the public interest is a robust economy. Most Americans have a simpler way of saying "robust economy." They call it, "having a job."
That's why I say that until more Americans can find work, regulators should take a pause — not on enforcing regulations we already have, but on writing still more of them.
Take just one of those regulations heading our way. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plans to lower still further the amounts of sulfur dioxide and mercury that power plants can emit.
The rules would require costly new equipment on most coal-burning power plants, the kind the Midwest especially depends on. They also set an unusually short deadline on designing, buying and installing the equipment, so many utilities simply won’t be able to make their plants hit the standard, no matter how much they spend.
Independent studies say utilities will instead shut down as much as 17% of coal-fired power generation in the country, including as much as 28% in the upper Midwest.
Losing a quarter of our power supply over the next few years isn’t a problem just for utilities. The rules would send power rates soaring by 22% in eastern Wisconsin by 2016, according to independent studies. Natural gas prices will rise sharply, too, as utilities scramble for an alternative fuel. Nationwide, this all will cost the nation about 1.44 million years of employment, or “job-years,” by 2020.
It is all unnecessary. The EPA’s current tight limits, for instance, mean that three-fourths of the sulfur dioxide that was in our air in 1980 is gone. Mercury emissions have fallen sharply — so much that when the EPA reckoned the benefits of its new rules, it calculated the reduction in mercury as worth less than $890,000. The question isn't whether we can get any cleaner; it is whether purging the last remnants of pollution is worth throwing away literally millions of American workers’ annual paychecks.
I've proposed the Regulation Moratorium and Job Preservation Act, which puts a hold on new regulations until unemployment falls below the level it was when the administration took office, to 7.7%. At least until the crisis passes, we need to stop shifting the earth under the feet of the nation's employers.
Many regulations have been helpful. No one wants to get rid of all regulations. But with an economy stuck in neutral, it's time to give job creators a chance to catch up with the myriad regulations we already have.