President Barack Obama penned a witty Wall Street Journal op-ed this week, titled "Toward a 21st-Century Regulatory System."
In it, he extolled the virtues of a free market system. And to prove that his admiration of capitalism has nothing to do with naked political expediency, Obama signed an executive order that will "root out regulations that conflict, that are not worth the cost, or that are just plain dumb."
Sounds rather subjective, though, don't you think? How do we gauge excessive regulation in the Age of Obama? I can't recall a single federal program, piece of legislation or proposal in the past two years that was initiated to ease the burden on consumers or businesses. (If you know of any, please send specifics to sorry(at)dowelooklikesuckers.com.)
Obama doesn't have to look far, if he's serious. Nor does he need an executive order. Right now, the Environmental Protection Agency is drafting carbon rules to force on states, even though a similarly torturous 2,000 pages on a cap-and-trade scheme intending to make power more expensive was rejected. Maybe there's something in that pile of paper to mine.
Also, the Federal Communications Commission is shoving network neutrality in the pipeline -- again, bypassing Congress -- so government can regulate the Internet for the first time in history, though the commissioners themselves admit that as of now, any need for rules are based on the what-ifs of their imaginations.
There exists no legislation more burdensome and expensive than the job-crushing (not "job-killing," because, naturally, we can't stand for that kind of imagery) Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, formerly known as Obamacare and presently being symbolically repealed by House Republicans.
That's for starters.
But, of course, there will be no tangible regulatory relief. The Federal Register is a codex of moral well-being, after all. Regulatory schemes are how we make life fairer, the sick healthy, the economy recession-proof and green energy a reality. It's how we stop the rich from acting selfishly and the weak from stuffing fat kids with Sno Balls.
Last May, a New York Times story, "With Obama, Regulations Are Back in Fashion," laid out how the administration had "pressed forward on hundreds of new mandates." In it, we have what seems like half the White House championing the pettiest of regulations as an ethical imperative.
Our bureaucratic agencies have nearly infinite power to do good via rule-making -- once they are in, that is. Keep in mind that the rule allowing "end-of-life" counseling paid for by Medicare was inserted into Obamacare after passage and only nixed after an ensuing outcry.
It, like thousands of other additions, will return.
A Small Business Administration study says total regulatory costs that businesses (and thus consumers) pay amount to about $1.75 trillion -- more than all collected personal income taxes. The Competitive Enterprise Institute found in this past year that the appearance of new rules -- including "major" rules that cost more than $100 million annually -- had dramatically accelerated.
Which isn't surprising.
When Obama was in a place of political comfort, the free market was a place of unhinged self-interest, unfairness and misery. Nearly all of our troubles were portrayed as a case of regulatory neglect -- and nearly every dilemma was met accordingly.
Nothing's changed but the political conditions.