American Elephants

Obama Wants Control of Your Life, and Neither the Courts nor Congress Can Stop Him. by The Elephant's Child

The Free Market, which Karl Marx labelled “capitalism” because he didn’t like it, and needed a term to demonize economic freedom, relies on the independent actions of millions of people. You can change people’s minds with propaganda and clever marketing to a certain extent, but spread across whole societies real preferences emerge. Democrats oppose capitalism because they favor big government and think they can do a better job of directing people’s lives than the people themselves can.  Arrogant? Sure. But that is what big government is all about. Power. The power to tell people what to do.

And busy beavers that they are, the Obama administration is burning to exercise that power. The EPA has been churning out new regulations ever since the election, and other agencies are following suit. HHS released a proposal to collect “user fees” from insurance companies listing health insurance in ObamaCare exchanges created by the federal government. The fee at 3.5 percent of the value of the policy seems squarely illegal. ObamaCare authorized states to establish user fees for state-created health insurance exchanges, but there was no corresponding user fee for states that refused to set up their own exchanges.

HHS is considering “Mandate Plus” to force more people to buy insurance rather than paying the “tax.” The White House has just released it’s list of 23 “executive actions” on gun violence, which will accomplish exactly nothing.

Obama expects to move forward with climate change through regulation from the EPA. He could not get cap-and-trade greenhouse gas regulation through Congress, so he expects to get this crony-capitalism rule through EPA regulation. He’s a little late, as climate change is no longer considered to be caused by “greenhouse gases” but he’s still concerned about “foreign oil” in spite of the fact that we have the world’s most plentiful supplies of fossil fuels.

Only 136 of Dodd-Frank proposals have been finalized and rules have been proposed for another 133. The Congressional Research Service had identified more than 40 ObamaCare provisions that require the issuance of regulations.

The FDA has proposed new food safety rules that “could prevent nearly two million illnesses annually” the agency claimed. The FSMA would permit the FDA to hire about 2,000 new food-safety inspectors in order to increase the frequency of food-safety inspections. The rules would require that all high-risk domestic facilities must be inspected within five years of enactment, and thereafter no less than every three years. The FDA estimates the FSMA will cost America’s small farms about $13,000 each per year. Larger farms can expect to pay about $30,000 a year. Can you imagine what that would do to the cost of food? How many farms would cease operation? Farmers have enormous incentive to protect food safety, a lawsuit for a death from contaminated food could cost them their farm and livelihood.

In the long run, the best check on regulatory overreach is Congress, which can pass laws improving the quality of regulatory agencies’ work by requiring them to consider rules’ cost and benefits in all cases and by heightening the standards governing the agencies’ factual and legal conclusions. To that end, the House Judiciary Committee has produced a number of strong reform bills, such as the Regulatory Accountability Act and the REINS Act. Both passed the House but stalled in the Senate; unfortunately, their prospects likely will not improve in the next four years.

In fact, much of the blame for our current predicament falls on Congress—that is, on previous Congresses that delegated vast power and discretion to regulators in open-ended statutes such as the Clean Air Act, then failed to rein in those agencies even after the dangers of those delegations became evident. And in recent years, Congress has exacerbated those problems by creating new agencies, such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which enjoy not just open-ended grants of power but also unprecedented insulation against oversight by the president and Congress.

Passing broadly worded statutes, Congress claimed credit for solving environmental, financial, or other policy problems, but handed off to regulators the discretion to tackle those problems however they saw fit. The creation of “independent” agencies did not merely make the agencies “independent” of the president and Congress; they made Congress “independent” of—that is, unaccountable for—the agencies.

Citizens are not likely to care much about regulation until it hits them directly, involving prohibiting them from an accustomed activity. But all regulations have extended consequences, and all of them will hit you in the pocketbook in one way or another. Few of these regulations will accomplish anything positive, they are a way of agencies justifying their existence.

Overregulation breeds either contempt or apathy.  You can get angry and fight back, or surrender to the power of government. At least for a while, you still have a choice.


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