US Senator John Thune’s Weekly Column: Ending Washington’s Red Tape Addiction

Ending Washington’s Red Tape Addiction
By Sen. John Thune

One of the worst-kept secrets in Washington is that federal regulators rarely encounter an issue to which more red tape can’t be applied. While anecdotally it’s duct tape that can fix anything that’s broken, Washington bureaucrats seem to believe red tape can fix anything – whether it’s broken or not. I often wonder if the people who make these rules and regulations have ever traveled outside the beltway to see exactly how their actions impact hard-working people in states across the country, because if they did, it’s hard to imagine how they’d reach the same conclusions.

According to a recent study by the American Action Forum (AAF), federal agencies in the Obama administration have issued 600 major regulations – with a negative impact of $100 million or more per regulation to the economy – since the president took office. AAF has determined these major regulations have burdened the U.S. economy by $743 billion, or roughly $2,300 per American. For perspective, if you stacked 743 billion $1 bills on top of one another, they would reach more than 50,000 miles into the air, the equivalent of two full trips around the Earth.  

In addition to $1.7 trillion in tax increases on President Obama’s watch, this dramatic expansion of government has resulted in stagnant wages, record low participation in the work force, and the worst economic recovery in 60 years. In fact, the Obama presidency will be the first ever not to achieve at least 3 percent economic growth for a full year.

Regulations aren’t metaphorical. They aren’t written and then shoved in the back of a book for someone to read about years later. Heavy-handed federal rules and regulations can have a real impact on the American people and make it more difficult and more expensive to create jobs and earn a living. In an economy where wages are flat and the cost for just about everything else in our daily lives has gone up, we should avoid squeezing families any more than they already have been.  

Not all regulations are bad regulations. For example, I think most people in South Dakota would agree that individuals or businesses shouldn’t be allowed to dump toxic substances in our lakes or rivers. Doing so would threaten our water supply, and it would put the health and safety of our communities at risk. I would venture to guess most of those same common-sense people would also agree that the federal government shouldn’t be regulating common activities of private property owners who happen to have small ponds or ditches in their backyards, which is what the EPA has tried to do with its Waters of the United States Rule.   

One of the most effective ways to create change is by having a president – the leader of the executive branch and its agencies – who is opposed to an over-regulated America. The best part about this option is that South Dakotans and the rest of the American people get a direct say in its outcome, and there’s no greater or more powerful voice than that.         

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