Obama’s Overreach Burdens U.S. Recovery
“If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.” Barack Obama was just 25 when President Ronald Reagan uttered those memorable words, but he evidently took them literally. President Obama has set a new standard for boundless government hyperactivity: taxing job creators, over-regulating domestic energy, and subsidizing economic failures like Solyndra.
When Democrats controlled Congress, President Obama grew government the old-fashioned way. He raised taxes on tanning beds, medicine and medical devices as a warm up, and then turned to the $500 billion tax hike included in his healthcare bill. These taxes are literally loss leaders compared to his oversized budget plans. With four consecutive years of trillion-dollar deficits, a budget written in red ink for the next decade, and no plan to tame the entitlement juggernaut, the real taxes hikes have yet to arrive.
When his legislative hammerlock was broken, the president moved from taxation to regulation. In Obama’s eyes, Congress has changed from a superhighway to a speed-bump. Take, for example, the new head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Richard Cordray. Lacking the requisite votes in the U.S. Senate, President Obama just decided to appoint Cordray while Congress was still in session, trampling on the Senate’s advise and consent role.
The president argues that Congress wasn’t really in session. If that’s true, then Congress didn’t really pass the payroll tax holiday extension. But when you’re overruling the Constitution, facts and logic are just collateral damage.
And what was Cordray’s first major step on the job? Pushing out a massive new regulation that imposes an astonishing 7.7 million paperwork burden hours, according to the administration’s own estimates. How much will this cost? The median hourly labor rate for many Dodd-Frank rules is estimated at $100. So Cordray’s new rule will cost $770 million or more. And who gets hurt? The customers of credit unions and institutions with assets of less than $10 billion, among others.
Maybe this is President Obama’s answer to creating jobs. There are still one million fewer private-sector jobs in America today compared to when Obama took office, no thanks to his tax and regulatory policies. But because of Cordray’s new rule, we estimate that roughly 4,000 employees will be needed to comply with its paperwork requirements. This brings a whole new meaning to shovel-ready.
This is just one rule and one particular industry. The aggressive regulatory agenda of Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency hit closer to Main Street and factory floors. The EPA recently finalized new rules for coal power plants which even the agency admits could cost 39,000 jobs.
Layoffs are already on the way. FirstEnergy Corporation announced that it plans to close six power plants in Ohio, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. When President Obama visits those states in the fall, he won’t be able to blame Congress. His administration took action without a single vote of Congress.
President Obama has exercised unilateral executive power in the labor arena as well. When even a Democrat-run Congress couldn’t deliver enough votes to pass union-boosting “Card Check” legislation, his administration began pushing regulations to appease his union base rather than help the U.S. economy. Since last fall his appointees at the National Labor Relations Board have moved briskly on rules giving unions an upper hand in abbreviated representation elections, forcing employers to advertise unions to their workforce, and giving union organizers access to workers’ private phone numbers and email addresses. Who benefits? Obama’s union allies. Who pays? Job creators and workers who want to be left alone.
The president’s political plans don’t require a robust healthcare industry, so he taxed and regulated it. They don’t include domestic energy producers, so he overregulated fracking, coal and offshore drilling – and shut the door to thousands of good-paying jobs with the Keystone XL pipeline project.
But given the power to target subsidies to friends and supporters, President Obama has been happy to shower his alternative energy fantasies (and investor-donors) with billions of taxpayer dollars. Solyndra didn’t “move,” so he subsidized it. Now, Solyndra and other “green energy” business schemes aren’t moving at all, much like the U.S. economy.
Tax, regulate, and subsidize – that’s how you grow government, not the economy. And for that, President Obama has only himself to blame.
This article originally appeared in The Hill.