Debunking the theory that federal regulations are job-killers
If American business is as innovative and adaptable as Republican politicians say it is, why do we hear so many complaints that business can’t efficiently deal with most regulations?
That question is going to be harder to answer in light of THIS NEW STUDY:
It’s one of the oldest right-wing claims: “Excessive” regulation will harm job creators and kill the economy. But is it based on sound economics?
One new study, which examines this particular argument, finds it absurd on its face. Taylor Lincoln, who authored the report for Public Citizen, tells Salon the goal was to “point out hypocrisy and contradictions and the chasms between rhetoric and reality.” To that end, the report cites one Heritage Foundation study which asserted that a more efficient regulatory system could create 9.6 million jobs. The problem, as Washington Post columnist Steven Pearlstein noted: “there are only 7 million unemployed Americans.”
Heritage isn’t the only one making this argument. A Phoenix Foundation study claimed that, “a 5 percent reduction in the federal regulatory budget would yield 5.9 million new jobs over five years.” But the Public Citizen report points out that this leads to a ludicrous conclusion: “a 16 percent decrease (a figure the authors chose to parallel the amount by which they say federal spending had exceeded revenue since 2000) would result in the creation of 18.8 million new jobs over five years. In contrast, there are only about 11.3 million unemployed Americans.”
Dr. Thomas McGarity, a University of Texas professor who has studied regulation for decades, finds the right-wing argument wanting. As to whether cutting regulation could increase economic growth, he tells Salon, “it’s a silly argument. The impact of regulation, particularly in this era when it’s so darn hard to write a regulation, is nothing compared to what the Fed does each meeting.” His most recent book, Freedom to Harm, details how a decade-long assault on regulation threatens workers and the environment.
In fact, the OMB estimates that regulations provide huge economic benefits. They find that major regulations benefit the economy between $193 billion and $800 billion a year at a cost of $57 to $84 billion. McGarity confirms this, telling Salon, “The thing that is most troubling to me is, when the right-wing think-tanks or the government estimates the cost of regulation, they never go back and see how much it did cost. The few retrospective studies that have been done have shown uniformly that the cost estimates have been higher, much higher than the actual cost of the regulation. The reason is that once the regulations are in place companies are able to adapt to them very quickly.”
The irony is that Republicans always hail the ability of businesses to innovate and adapt, but their anti-regulatory stance is premised on the idea the businesses cannot adapt to new regulation.