More takers than makers, more people hooked on “Uncle Sugar,” more grumbling that Republicans can’t win because they can’t beat Santa Claus. But this simply isn’t true. Republicans can access and hand out about $1.86 trillion dollars a year, without robbing Peter to pay Paul.
Grab your fake beard and elf hat and get ready to get into the handout business—or perhaps the “hand back” business.
President Ronald Reagan changed the direction of the country with tax cuts, and the next “Reagan Revolution” will arise from regulatory reform. While taxes should be lower, at a minimum they should also be transparent and levied fairly. Taxes are just another form of regulation and, like most regulation; they harm Americans who have the least lobbying power. That’s ordinary folks like you and me. Regulation takes money out of every American’s pocket daily. It’s time for a hand-back.
There’s plenty of money to free up and send back to taxpayers. In its first five years, the Obama administration more than doubled the number of major regulations that each typically cost taxpayers $1 billion every year, compared to the Bush administration. Stopping the Keystone Pipeline, allowing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to run rampant, applying the Endangered Species Act arbitrarily (see the Delta Smelt and the Spotted Owl episodes)—all have either taken away jobs from Americans or prevented people from creating new jobs.
These causes have been couched in environmental protection, although Keystone would make oil transportation safer, the Spotted Owl was really being eaten by other owls, and Delta Smelt continue to be eaten by other species while water that could support agriculture is flushed out to sea amid a drought. While it’s hard to articulate the opportunity cost of these decisions to the average person, what’s easy to say is, “We can lower your energy bill, your water bill, your food bill, and the price of gas at the pump. We can lower your health insurance cost and give you back your doctor if we can repeal the regulatory burden ObamaCare imposes.”
Restore $15k Per Household
Some folks at Real Clear Policy figured out how much money we’re talking about per year:
The federal regulatory state costs the economy an additional $1.86 trillion annually.
If it were its own country, the federal regulatory state would be the world’s tenth-largest economy—larger than that of Canada, Italy, or India. Federal regulations amount to a hidden tax of almost $15,000 per household. That’s more than families spend on food, clothing, health care, education, and other necessities. Only housing costs more. Factor in regulation, and the federal government is half again as large as most people think it is.
This figure of approximately $15,000 per household doesn’t even take into account the other losses Americans incur because of regulations. Starting a business costs more, established companies use and lobby for regulation to keep out new entrants, innovation slows down, and it’s becoming almost impossible for people to keep up with new regulations without paying lawyers and accountants thousands for compliance: “Every year, more than 3,600 new regulations hit the books—a rate of nearly ten new rules per day. This flow piles onto a stock of regulations that now fills more than 175,000 pages in the Code of Federal Regulations and includes more than 1 million regulatory restrictions that impose a significant burden on the economy.”
Requiring people to ask permission instead of creating exhausts everybody. Everywhere you turn, there’s a new regulation to consider before you can act. The opportunity cost of regulation is the loss of future opportunity.
A Few Starting Points
So where’s the money to hand out? Let’s walk through just a few.
1. Reform licensing requirements to make it easier to start a business and lower the cost of common services.
According to the Goldwater Institute:
Licensing requirements have the economic effect of discouraging people from entering an occupation in which they might succeed if their success hinged only on the satisfaction of customers.
About 20 percent of the nation’s workforce is licensed, driving up costs to consumers by between 2.0 and 2.4 percent. That figure represents a shift of dollars from consumers to licensed professionals, brought about artificially through licensing, of between $116 billion and $139 billion.
Occupational licensing especially harms the poor by making it harder for them to get a job, as noted by Veronique de Rugy:
Arizona, the state with the most onerous licensing regime, licenses more than 60 low-income occupations and charges an average of $450 in fees for the privilege. Iowa, the least burdensome of the 20 states listed, still requires licenses 54 low-income occupations. Compared to states with stricter licensing regimes, like California and Nevada, Iowa charges relatively low average fees of $141 and requires a mere 181 days’ worth of education or experience. Still, for low-income Americans who are trying their best to support their families, every small cost counts. By placing barriers to entry on jobs that could otherwise be performed by low-income individuals, these states remove the bottom rung of the ladder of opportunity for the citizens who need it the most.
It’s also ridiculous that “In Minnesota, more classroom time is required to become a cosmetologist than to become a lawyer. Becoming a manicurist takes double the number of hours of instruction as a paramedic.”
2. Lower Americans energy bills at home and at the pump.
Let Americans reap the benefits of the Silent Energy Boom. For one, the EPA should stop forcing people to use low-quality ethanol-infused gasoline, which voids their car warranties and lowers their gas mileage drastically.
Allowing the United States to export its energy worldwide would also not only make Americans more money, it has the potential to drop the price of oil dramatically.
Explore more energy at home. Take a look at Permian Basin in Texas.
To be fair to those wildcatters of old, they didn’t know that oil trapped in shale would someday be commercially extractable. Now that hydraulic fracturing has made it possible, we are discovering increasing amounts of oil in the Permian. Pioneer Natural Resources—one of the most prominent landholders in West Texas—estimates that the recoverable resources in the field’s different shale layers could make it the world’s largest single source of recoverable oil ever found.
This isn’t just a lot of oil. This is a ‘completely change the dynamics of global production’ amount of oil. This is an ‘enough to supply all of America by itself for more than a decade’ amount of oil.
There are more finds like this all over the United States. Fracking has unleashed huge new potential for the energy market. Government should get out of the way and let people dramatically reduce the price of the energy we all use every day.
3. Return to the rational Endangered Species Act of 1969.
The changes implemented in 1973 “acknowledged that the choice of which organisms to protect and how much to spend to maintain their habitat are basically political decisions that should not be subject to arbitrary scientific or fiscal restraints.” Refocusing this law on the rational and desirable intention to preserve species that were going extinct as long as it was “insofar as is practicable and consistent with [the agencies] primary purposes” will stop the government from spending lots of time and money hurting animals and humans.
4. Starting putting people’s paychecks ahead of bad policy: Rein in the EPA.
The EPA is not about social justice. It should be about thoughtful use of our environment to benefit human beings. The agency’s oversight should reflect those values. As Senator Mitch McConnell stated : “These regulations are a lose-lose proposition all around—for U.S. jobs, for families, for the U.S. economy, for our nation’s competitiveness overseas, and for those who want to see a reduction in global carbon emissions.”
The EPA’s latest ruling on carbon emissions isn’t enough to stop climate change and will cost families a lot, according to the agency’s own estimates: “utilities would spend as much as $8.8 billion a year to comply with the rule.” Your energy bill will “necessarily skyrocket,” America. These new rules will cost Americans jobs and hard earned money, according to the Chamber of Commerce. They will:
- Lead to 224,000 fewer U.S. jobs on average every year through 2030,
- Force U.S. consumers to pay $289 billion more for electricity through 2030, and
- Lower total disposable income for U.S. households by $586 billion through 2030.
There are billions more opportunities to address the regulatory burden put on ordinary Americans. Regulation is taking money out of American’s pockets. It’s time to give that money back. $1.86 trillion every year is a whole lot of money to hand out. For a family with an average household income of $65,596 per year, that’s 23 percent of their annual budget, more than they spend on “healthcare, food, transportation, entertainment, apparel, services, and savings.”
President Barack Obama won by promising to lower everyone’s healthcare costs by $2,500 per year, and they believed him. If you consider the CBS News exit poll from the 2012 races, there are a lot of folks who might be happy to see that money in their pocket. The chart below shows the presidential vote breakdown by annual family income.
The regulatory state is a gold mine of money that can go back to Americans, no false promises necessary. The biggest taker in the room is government. So grab your Santa hat, Republicans. It’s time to hand out some money.