My Fantasy Obama Jobs Speech

by John Berlau on September 8, 2011

in Deregulate to Stimulate, Economy, Features, Regulation, Zeitgeist

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The following is my fantasy speech on jobs from Barack Obama. He looks at CEI’s websites, realizes his big-government approach has been all wrong, but also takes the GOP to task for its past regulatory sins.

My fellow Americans,

As I stand here tonight before you in this grand hall of the U.S. Capitol building, let me begin my address with an elegant Latin phrase. Mea culpa.

I was wrong about nearly all the domestic policies I have been pursuing since the beginning of my administration and really over the duration of my political career. During my long vacation at Martha’s Vineyard, when I wasn’t playing golf, I was so frustrated about the economy that I did something I should have done a long time ago. I surfed the Internet to look for answers that my so-called economic experts weren’t giving me.

I came upon this amazing web site by a group called the Competitive Enterprise Institute, CEI.org, and its companion blog OpenMarket.org. I had heard of CEI before, but just dismissed these individuals as mouthpieces for the GOP.

My mistake. I now realize that CEI says things that are simply common sense. I was particularly struck by the organization’s one simple yet brilliant insight on economic growth. This amazing insight — from CEI Vice President and Director of Technology Studies Wayne Crews — is that one doesn’t need to teach grass to grow. It will grow all by itself if only we remove the suffocating rocks that are blocking the beautiful blades from sprouting.

And as I read this, I realized what I and my colleagues had done wrong. We were subsidizing and mandating the grass to grow through the stimulus and the continuation of the bailouts of my predecessor. But this was all for dubious effect not just because of what I discovered are the flaws in the deficit spending theories of John Maynard Keynes, but because we still had not removed the regulatory rocks of previous administrations, and we were laying on the grass some pretty big boulders of our own.

In 2010, just as the economy was starting to recover, my administration put in 100 regulations that we ourselves classified as “major rules” costing the economy more than $100 million a year.  In addition, there are hundreds of pending regulations from the health care law and the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul I championed that are creating major uncertainties for business large and small and are causing them to put off hiring.

I now realize that is not nearly enough to simply review past regulations and throw out a mere token few. So I am putting a moratorium on new regulations, and will put on hold those my administration has already issued, even from the health care and Dodd-Frank laws that I previously had called off limits in my administration’s regulatory relief efforts.  I will also support passage of the REINS Act in Congress to give Congress the opportunity, and more importantly, the responsibility to reject major rules that stem from the often vague laws it writes.

I will also no longer oppose Congressional efforts to repeal what is effectively a ban on incandescent light bulbs from legislation signed by my predecessor. This ban, which is set to go into effect next year, would increase the cost of light bulbs for families by more than ten-fold, from the average of 30 cents for incandescent bulbs to more than $3 per new type of bulbs that are supposedly more energy-efficient.

Now, let me be clear. I still believe that I inherited a mess from my predecessor. Amazingly, I found that the experts at CEI somewhat shared my belief that my predecessor is partly to blame. But I realize now that I was blaming him for exactly the wrong things.

I had assumed from the publications I read and news programs I watch that the Bush administration was characterized by deregulation. But I now realize from the good folks at CEI that some of the most onerous regulations holding back the economy were issued under his watch. As Iain Murray, CEI’s vice president for strategy and author of the great new book Stealing You Blind (I’m  ordering copies for my entire domestic policy staff), has written, “The Bush years saw a massive bloating of the regulatory state.”

There is the light-bulb ban that he signed when passed right after my party took control of Congress in 2007. In addition, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, signed by President Bush as a response to the Enron and WorldCom accounting scandals, has showered companies with needless accounting mandates and made it very difficult for smaller companies to go public. A University of Rochester researcher found that it may have resulted in $1 trillion in direct and indirect costs to the economy, and Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus has said he never could have taken his then-small firm public had this law been in effect.

Also during the Bush era, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke championed a boneheaded policy (as I’m realizing that many of his monetary policies are as well) barring retailers and manufacturers from forming or purchasing limited-purpose banks called industrial lending companies, even with safeguards for deposit insurance. This has resulted in some of the most well-run companies in America, such as Wal-Mart and Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, not being able to get banking licenses they first applied for in 2006. I’ve come to realize that this and other limitations preventing profitable companies from entering banking is one of the reasons they are sitting on so much cash.

And I will also aggressively push for the bipartisan Small Business Lending Enhancement Act, a bipartisan bill to correct a bipartisan mistake in 1998 (from a law passed by the GOP-controlled Congress and signed by my Democratic predecessor) that barred credit unions from making business loans that represented more than 12 percent of their assets. That law was motivated not by concerns about credit union solvency, but for the protection of banks from competition. And now it is preventing lending by credit unions to small business that could jump start our economy.

As of tonight, this administration is rededicating itself to rock removal so that America’s grass can grow tall once again.

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