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Emerson Report 5.17.2012

Congress Is On Guard Against a Regulatory Legacy

The regulatory reach of the federal bureaucracy has reached disturbing levels.  In Southern Missouri, we know the interest of federal agencies in regulating our lives includes dust on farms, milk storage on dairies, the freedom of our children to work in agriculture, access to roads and rivers, and the lead in fishing tackle, ammunition and the tire stem valves of ATV’s.  The ozone produced by traffic on our interstates, this Administration says, could require our rural counties to shut down manufacturing businesses and eliminate local jobs.

More sweeping regulations are on the table, too, like the individual mandate to purchase health insurance, taxes on energy and manipulation of domestic resources, and water and air quality standards that bring every inch of American soil under the jurisdiction of the Environmental Protection Agency.  A few of these examples have found their way into law over the objections of right-minded legislators, others are federal regulations, and some are proposals which have been temporarily shelved by the administration.

This last category is of the greatest concern.  Congress can fight rules, regulations and overreach, but we cannot stop the Administration from thinking up new ways to undermine our economy and then putting them on ice.

And the outsized effect of these mostly-environmental regulations falls disproportionately on rural areas in the middle of the country.  Manufacturing, agriculture and transportation are hit hardest by federal policies that pressure energy prices and restrict our ability to draw on the natural resources all around us.

The simple threat of these extreme regulations has a real effect on employers, communities and taxpayers, even if they are never implemented.  But there is always the risk that they will be.

In the event that the president is not re-elected, a flurry of last-minute regulation could occur as this Administration goes out the door.  Not only does this prospect cause great uncertainty for American businesses large and small, it also worries good government groups which do not believe an outgoing Administration should be allowed to effectively bind the hands of an incoming president.  When that happens, the regulatory tangle can take years to untie.  In the meanwhile, the economy and the country suffer.

It is one thing, of course, to urge restraint on this kind of aggressive regulation, but it is entirely another to prevent it in advance.

For starters, the Administration should be urged to exercise restraint, transparency and reason.  I’m not sure that is a practical goal, given the fact that no previous White House has so dramatically expanded the regulatory reach of government into the private lives of American families and businesses.

Certainly, the pressure Congress and the public have applied to prevent many of these onerous regulations from moving forward should be kept up.  We have to keep making the case for rural America and the families who make their living there.

But most importantly, this Congress and the next one should be prepared to quickly attack any of these efforts by this Administration to regulate on its way out the door.  We will be.