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OPINION

Hank “Guam Might Tip Over” Johnson: Don't Think that Regulations are Hurting You

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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Representative Hank Johnson (D-GA) apparently thinks that Federal regulations are kinda like rules in a kindergarten classroom. He even went so far as to suggest that they are responsible for the prosperity that America has experienced in the last 239 years.

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Speaking against a bill that would require Federal Agencies to give advance notice of costly regulations (because it’s so inconvenient for government to let small business know ahead of time about expensive mandates), the Democrat opined about the wisdom and benevolence of big government:

“So don't get it twisted. Don't think that regulations are hurting you. Regulations are causing what benefits you are taking advantage of now.”

Ok… I’ll be honest: I don’t really know how to tackle this. I mean, the transcript kinda reads like the poorly translated instructions that come with furniture made in China. But it appears that Hank Johnson was trying to convince his fellow congressmen (and congresswomen) that regulations somehow benefit us…

He even managed to compare living under the mountain of Federal Regulations to going to kindergarten:

“I'll take note of the fact that when I went to kindergarten we had a set of rules up on the board. Everywhere you go, you're going to have a set of rules.”

Really? We’re comparing the list of rules on the blackboard in a kindergarten classroom to the 75,000 pages of tax code over at the IRS? We’re comparing the “no running” sign at a public swimming pool to the HHS’s hundreds of thousands of Obamacare provisions?

Of course, the smartest man in Georgia’s 4th district continued:

“I mean, this country that we live in is not a great country because it chose simplicity as its motto.”

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But... it kinda was. I mean, the Constitution only took up four pieces of parchment. That seems awfully simple. I’m somewhat surprised Hank hasn’t flipped through it. (Probably because it isn’t illustrated.)

“We have a lot of rules we have to live by and those are the things that help make America a great country and guess what, ladies and gentlemen? It's you and your family members and friends who populate this federal government.”

I dunno. I mean, none of my family members were ever worried that overpopulation was going to cause the island of Guam to capsize.

Of course over-regulation hurts the American citizenry. If you ever wondered why more middle class Americans aren’t buying houses nowadays, it’s because the mortgage regulations have become so absurd it is often much easier for a bank to simply decline a loan than acquiesce to the government’s demands. Businesses are holding off on hiring due to minimum wage laws, Obamacare regulations, tax requirements, worker’s compensation insurance, and other cost-prohibitive conditions of employment. There’s a reason individual wages aren’t rising, but the cost of labor is… That extra money that businesses are investing in employees sure doesn’t make it to the employee's bank account – but at least they have Social Security and Obamacare, right?

And if you’re still unsure whether or not rules, regulations, and laws hurt the American people, just ask Eric Garner’s family. It didn’t take an army of EPA regulations, or a legion of Federal bureaucrats to “hurt” him… He was killed over the enforcement of a simple cigarette tax.

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The list of Federal regulations has exploded since the 1950s. As of 2013, there were well over a million provisions in the Federal register that prohibited, restricted or compelled behavior through regulation alone. The sheer number of tax requirements (some are laws, some are regulations) are so vast, even the IRS is unable to give dependable or reliable guidance on how to comply.

Heck, the number of regulatory agencies is so immense that even the Feds are unable to keep an up-to-date list of all its bureaucracies.

Unfortunately, this vast web of government intrusion means that at any given time, most Americans are likely in violation of one or more Federal laws. As Honeywell International is finding out, even when you follow the rules, you end up in trouble. (Seriously… Obama is suing companies for following a provision of Obamacare, because it violates a provision of the Americans with Disabilities Act.)

When the rules become so cumbersome that it is virtually impossible for an individual to understand, comprehend, or even recognize all the restrictions placed on their behavior, the rule of law becomes trivialized into an arbitrary game of selective enforcement. Only by the grace of decent judges, lenient prosecutors, or benevolent bureaucrats are the majority of Americans able to escape prosecution of some obscure (or unknown) rule.

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Of course, I guess it’s all just a matter of perspective. Hank doesn’t have to live in our world. He isn’t stretching the budget of a struggling small business to meet payroll. He isn’t overdrawing his bank account paying for basic things like rent, groceries, or phone bills. And, he certainly isn’t dealing with the fiscal reality of planning for retirement in a financial sector overrun with bureaucratic legalize and cumbersome tax complications.

Nah… He’s a congressman after all. And given that he compared the Federal Government to a kindergarten teacher, I think we have a pretty good idea of what thinks of all us commoners. Someone should let the voters in Georgia’s 4th district know that they’ve been Grubered.

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