Wicker: Time to Curb Washington’s Power Grabs

Over the past few weeks, President Obama has traveled across the country to talk about jobs, delivering a series of speeches in a highly publicized “pivot” to the economy. The President’s latest campaign is a familiar one: Absent a true recovery, he has turned to worn-out ideas not practical strategies.

Small business owners are rightfully hesitant about the future. The Obama Administration’s power grabs have led to a daunting environment for job creators. With major rules and regulations in the pipeline, fears of new costs and compliance burdens are discouraging job expansion. Instead, many businesses are cutting hours and trimming their payrolls.

The chief economist for the National Federation of Independent Business put it this way: “We only have to look to Washington for reasons why our economy can’t seem to maintain steam and is on a painfully slow journey towards job creation.”

Holding the Executive Branch Accountable

If President Obama’s recent speeches are any indication, the Administration will continue to stand in the way of an economic rebound. On multiple occasions, the President has pledged to sidestep Congress and use executive authority to push his agenda.

Republicans have already acted to stem the threat of government overreach. The “Regulations From the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act” cleared the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this month in an effort to protect Americans from the costly rulemaking of powerful federal agencies. The legislation would hold the executive branch accountable by requiring Congress to approve regulations that have an economic impact of $100 million or more. Majority Leader Harry Reid should allow this bill to be considered by the full Senate.

Rising Compliance Costs, Paperwork Hours

To grasp the growth of the regulatory landscape, consider these numbers from the nonprofit American Action Forum: So far this year, the federal government has published regulations amounting to $66 billion in compliance costs and 81.2 million in annual paperwork hours. At this rate, regulators are on track to publish $114 billion in rules by the end of the year. In 2012, the Federal Register reached nearly 79,000 pages – enough to fill 79 Bibles.

Costly Rules on the Horizon

Much of the discussion about burdensome regulation involves the President’s health-care law, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, which are all responsible for substantial rulemaking. According to one estimate, implementation of Dodd-Frank is not even halfway complete, even though the law was passed three years ago.

Some regulations have caught the public’s attention, from limits on the carbon emissions of power plants to penalties against Americans who do not buy health insurance. But lesser-known rules are poised to make a costly impact, too, as precious time and resources are diverted to meet tedious requirements. One rule on the horizon would force all companies to publish the difference in pay between the chief executive and average worker. Another calls for calorie information to be posted near vending machines.

Reining in Washington’s regulatory excess should be part of an economic recovery plan. Like unchecked federal spending, too much red tape threatens growth and innovation. Instead of more bureaucracy, it is time for America’s job creators to take the lead.

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