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Detroit News: Walberg: Say no to runaway regulations

December 21, 2015
Opinion Editorial
For Michigan families, the days leading up to Christmas are time for buying last-minute gifts, spending time with our loved ones and celebrating the joy of the season.

For the Obama administration, with attention focused on the holidays, it is a prime opportunity to impose new regulations on Americans.

Last month, days before friends and families gathered for Thanksgiving, the Obama administration quietly unveiled more than 2,000 federal regulations. Among them are 144 new rules that are considered "economically significant," meaning they each will cost Americans $100 million or more per year.

Earlier this year, right before the Memorial Day weekend, 2,300 federal regulations unceremoniously hit the pocketbooks of working families and small businesses.

Unfortunately, the tendency to over-regulate, often while developing and changing rules without any public input or consideration of adverse effects on the economy, has become a staple of the last seven years.

The rise in red tape has contributed to a disappointing economy, sluggish job growth, and less opportunity for hardworking men and women across the country.

Examining the consequences of the Obama administration's regulatory onslaught was the focus of a recent Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Workforce Protections hearing, where I serve as chairman.

One of the witnesses was Ralph Beebe, a small business owner from Howell whose engineering company employs 45 people and specializes primarily in troop support equipment.

In his testimony, Beebe cited the National Federation of Independent Business' monthly survey of small businesses owners that found "government requirements and red tape" has been a top-three concern since 2009.

Due to duplicative and complex reporting requirements, Beebe's company had to hire a compliance officer just to keep up with the pace of runaway regulations—taking time away from day-to-day business operations. He told me that he would have rather hired a welder.

The subcommittee also heard from Sam Batkins, a regulatory policy expert for the American Action Forum (AAF), who noted that since 2008, regulators have added about $100 billion in annual regulatory costs. One AAF study found that for every $1 billion in new regulatory costs in a particular industry, employment in that industry declined 3.6 percent. The average industry examined in this study employs 222,035 workers, which means $1 billion in new regulatory results in more than 8,000 lost jobs.

Meanwhile, another study, commissioned by the National Association of Manufacturers, found that federal regulations cost more than $2 trillion in lost economic growth annually.

These staggering statistics demonstrate how an overly punitive regulatory approach is making life harder for working families—lost wages, fewer jobs and opportunities to get ahead—not better.

Federal policies play an important role in ensuring safe and healthy workplaces where the rights of hardworking men and women are protected. But these rules must be given the light of day and implemented fairly, responsibly, and in a way that promotes the best interests of both workers and their employers in a 21st Century workplace.

An overhaul of the regulatory system is needed, but one common sense way to increase accountability and ensure more responsible rulemaking is the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act, which passed the House earlier this year. Rather than unelected bureaucrats unilaterally implementing costly regulations, the REINS Act would give the people's representatives in Congress an up or down vote on any major new executive branch rule or regulation.

It is a far better approach than yet another wave of unchecked regulations hidden under the Christmas tree this year.

U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, represents Michigan's 7th District and is Chairman of the Workforce Protections Subcommittee. This op-ed originally appeared in the December 21 edition of the Detroit News.