Earlier this month, a farmer in Illinois kindly requested that President Obama stop burdening and challenging America's agriculture community with unnecessary and burdensome new regulations. The President tried to brush off the man's appeal by simply telling him to contact the USDA, suggesting that this farmer was being duped by "special interests." An inquisitive reporter tried to simulate what that farmer would have found on his own, and that reporter was left running in circles, being transferred from one office to another, leaving one voicemail after another, and even being instructed to just "Google" for the answer.
Sadly, this story is all too familiar. Concerned constituents, simply trying to keep the family farms and other businesses running, share with me often their frustrations and worries about what's next from Washington. It's not enough to have to worry about the next harvest; now, it is what is coming next in the Federal Register, where proposed regulations are offered. Be it dust regulation, treating milk spills like oil spills, or greenhouse gas emissions, the White House and its EPA are on the prowl, in search of another way to insert itself in the affairs of America's rural communities and in the way of American prosperity.
What these regulations have in common is that they approach governance as "guilty until proven innocent." It is as if farmers and producers cannot be trusted to take care of the land, air, and water. What Washington cannot seem to grasp is that those who work the land tend to be some of the best stewards of natural resources; after all, farmers and producers rely on the continued existence, availability, and capability of them. A Kansas business owner recently summed up the situation for me: "We have a regulatory environment that assumes businesses are crooks, and government must catch them at it. This only raises costs on business and makes it more difficult to operate."
Since the beginning of his Presidency, Barack Obama's agencies and departments have issued 75 major new regulations, carrying a $38 billion annual price tag that employers and entrepreneurs pay and pass along to consumers. However, the private sector's loss is Washington's gain: there was a 3 percent increase in regulatory staff at federal agencies between 2009 and 2010 and another 4 percent uptick is expected for this year, according to The George Washington University's Regulatory Studies Center. And there are more costly regulations looming, as there are 144 pending "economically significant" rules that cost at least $100 million each. Taking more from the economy while growing the government is not the economic equation that creates jobs.
Congress has the authority to veto regulations, but such power is (unfortunately) rarely exercised. I am proud to cosponsor H.R. 10, The Regulations From the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act of 2011, which would require congressional approval of any "major rule" that has resulted in or is likely to result in costs of $100 million or more annually; major increases in the costs of goods; or adverse effects to the health of the economy and competitiveness. This type of oversight not only holds rule makers accountable, but also lawmakers who pass the laws that enable overregulation.
It's not just the rumor mill or unsubstantiated Google searches that are generating concern and worry about the President's plans for regulation. It's Washington's track record that has people nervous. Washington's lack of common sense has made the President and regulators blind to the anxiety they have created.