By Newt Gingrich
The key to eliminating our oppressive regulatory regime is to simply replace the existing bureaucracy rather than trying to reform it. The current systems are so entrenched that we need to start over with new organizations and new people.
Overbearing bureaucrats are especially prominent at the Environmental Protection Agency. The arrogance, economic ignorance, and dictatorial attitude of the current organization are well known throughout much of America.
The EPA bullies and dictates to businesses, small towns, and states. It routinely tells states what they have to do and then claims not to be at fault when the states tell local communities and businesses they must comply.
The EPA has become a clear example of "bureaucratic socialism"--an ingenious adaptation of European socialism.
Under "bureaucratic socialism," you get to own your company, but federal bureaucrats tell you how to run it.
Two recent events surrounding the rumors of stiffening "dust regulation," which led to a new height of anger against the bureaucrats, highlight the need to replace the EPA with a brand new Environmental Solutions Agency.
In a speech last week, EPA Administrator Linda Jackson acknowledged the anger when she said people referred to her officials as "jack-booted thugs."
What was amazing about her comments was her complete inability to ask why people would use terms like "jack-booted thugs" to describe the agency's behavior. She exhibited a total unwillingness to listen to her critics or try to understand their frustration.
Similarly, a Washington Post's report on the dust rules was so infuriatingly one-sided and dishonest that it was easy to see why many Americans feel their concerns are trampled by an evasive bureaucracy.
On November 3 the Washington Post ran a story that claimed members of Congress were working to "ban [a] phantom EPA dust rule."
With great glee, the Post writers reported:
"Earlier this year, Republicans found what they saw as an ideal talking point to illustrate a federal bureaucracy gone batty.
"The Environmental Protection Agency, they warned, was trying to regulate something only God could control: the dust in the wind.
""Now, here comes my favorite of the crazy regulatory acts. The EPA is now proposing rules to regulate dust,' Rep. John Carter (R-Tex.) said on the House floor. He said Texas is full of dusty roads: "The EPA is now saying you can be fined for driving home every night on your gravel road.'
"There was just one flaw in this argument: It was not true.
"The EPA's new dust rule did not exist. It never did."
I was stunned by this assertion.
Everywhere I had gone in Iowa, people had been complaining about the proposed dust rule. Senator Chuck Grassley, a senior and informed leader in the Senate, had been speaking out against the rule aggressively. In fact, he had a staff person assigned to fighting the EPA over the proposed rule.
The assertion that it was never considered was plainly dishonest.
Although there was never a formal proposal to create the rule, the prospect of stricter dust regulations had been on the table for months after EPA panels gave conflicting recommendations. Since the EPA makes no distinctions between urban, industrial dust and dust from agriculture or rural roads, many rural Americans were justifiably terrified that the agency was dragging its feet. It was not until mid-October that the EPA finally said it wouldn't tighten the rules, as its panel had recommended.
The Post's characterization of the issue as "hubbub over this phantom rule -- surely one of the most controversial regulations that never was" was both false and insulting to the 112 House members and 26 Senators who had cosponsored legislation to prevent the agency from regulating farm dust.
The article (obviously based on a one-sided, dishonest EPA description of the fight) suggested all of these elected representatives and their staffs were ignorant and cynical, instead of acknowledging their legitimate concerns on behalf of rural Americans. It was the Washington elite at its most infuriating.
Congresswoman Kristi Noem of South Dakota, the author of the bill on farm dust regulation, issued a powerful statement of myths and facts demolishing the EPA argument.
Between an administrator who jokes that Americans perceive her officials as "jack-booted thugs," and widespread dishonesty and evasion about proposed dust regulations, it is clear the EPA must be replaced, not reformed.
We need a true Environmental Solutions Agency to replace the EPA--an agency that will emphasize innovation, collaboration, common sense and economic rationality. It can't be done with the same old bureaucrats. It will require new people in a new institution.