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United States Senators went on record this afternoon and the result was unfortunate. 53 Senators voted against a resolution offered by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) that would have disapproved of the Environmental Protection Agency’s backdoor global warming regulations. Today’s outcome was a victory for anti-growth environmentalists, but a devastating loss for the American people.
The EPA’s regulations will marginalize any potential economic recovery by making investment and job creation more expensive. Why? Because the costs of regulation are staggering. The EPA estimates the average permit will cost applicants $125,000 and 866 hours of labor. Some businesses will simply close. The lucky ones will move overseas, cancel expansion plans and just lower wages. All of those are bad options considering the American economy has lost nearly 8 million jobs over the past 30 months.
Despite the outcome of today’s vote, many liberals recognize the EPA cannot be left to its own devices, which means there will be other, more subtle efforts to limit the EPA’s regulatory dragnet.
Chief among them is a proposal offered by Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV). His proposal would simply delay the implementation of the EPA’s regulation. Delaying these destructive regulations is not inherently bad, but it does not address the fact that bad regulations are indeed coming. It creates regulatory uncertainty is bad for the economy and bad for the American people.
According to Greenwire (subscription required), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) promised the Senate would vote on Rockefeller’s proposal before the elections. The article implied Reid’s promise was designed to prevent the Murkowski resolution from passing.
Another potential alteration of the EPA’s regulatory scheme comes from Senators Tom Carper (D-DE) and Robert Casey (D-PA), both of whom voted against Senator Murkowski’s resolution. Their approach is rumored to “protect” small businesses while focusing the economic pain on only the biggest emitters. Any student of economics knows those so-called “big emitters” will pass those costs along businesses and families. Even worse, the plan would only “protect” the little guy until 2016.
While those two policy prescriptions are misguided, the real danger is that Senators will use this failure as an excuse to move forward legislatively on a cap-and-trade scheme or renewable electricity mandate. A Heritage analysis found that the House-passed global warming bill would destroy 2.5 million jobs and $9.4 trillion in economic growth. Similarly, an analysis of a renewable electricity mandate would reduce employment by more than 1 million jobs, add to our national debt and undermine our quality of life.
By voting against the Murkowski resolution, Senators have failed to address the primary concern of Americans—the economy.
In a rather confessional tone, Jeffrey Sachs declared in his recent op-ed:
The global fiscal stimulus championed last year by the Obama administration is coming undone, repudiated by the same Group of 20 that endorsed it last year. Now, against a backdrop of a widening sovereign debt crisis, we need to abandon short-term thinking in favour of the long-term investments needed for sustained recovery.
Indeed, the current period of uncertain and fragile economic rebound poses a critical opportunity to ponder the principles that can revitalize economic growth. More than ever, the urgency to adhere to sensible principles is high as a wave of interventionism has seen government take more control of our private economic activity, wearing away economic freedom hard won through years of determined work. Government’s rush to fix the perceived causes of the economic crisis has demonstrated the dangers of interventionist policies by big government. Rather than fixing economic problems, they can actually exacerbate them.
Unfortunately, our government seems to be exhibiting a “fire, ready, aim” mindset with regards to government action in the economy. Fixing something without fully understanding why it’s broken can be very dangerous and further erode our economic freedom.
As Sachs points out, “[President Obama] and his advisers ignored one of the key insights of modern macroeconomics: that the result of fiscal policy depends not only on current taxes and spending but also on their expected trajectories in the future.” Policy choices made at this critical juncture of the economic uncertainty will indisputably shape the growth trajectory for our economy in coming years.
If our policy makers, Democrats and Republicans alike, are serious about restoring and securing our economic future, they should begin with a renewed commitment to economic freedom, which is key to a vibrant, innovative and growing economy. The challenge is to revamp the reform agenda to focus on creating more economic freedom, not less. Our leaders should trust Americans to find the best opportunities to create jobs and economic growth. That is the best and most principled approach to move beyond the current economic woes as quickly as possible…
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