When British subjects in the American colonies had had enough of King George III’s “long train of abuses and usurpations” against them, they drafted a Declaration of Independence from Great Britain. It remains one of the greatest documents for human liberty ever created. They put forth before the world a defense of American independence not only with flawless reasoning and moral clarity, but also with a litany of practical examples of how the king had abused and usurped their rights under God and the law.
One of their charges against the king decried the economy-crippling harassment of the people by his bureaucratic functionaries.
The Declaration stated:
“He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.”
It is to our great shame that those words so accurately depict the regulatory apparatus of the United States of America now. “Eat out our substance” is a particularly apt description of being forced to comply with all the rules and regulations imposed by a host of alphabet-soup federal agencies, from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and more.
Those are all “new offices” — executive agencies created in the 20th century.
For example, a proposed new rule by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) would require public companies to report their “climate-related risks and impacts.” The SEC estimates that this rule alone would raise the annual cost of compliance to those businesses by $3.8 billion to $10.2 billion. A huge chunk of productive resources would be tied up in new red tape.
Regulatory compliance requires lots of paperwork, takes many would-be profitable transactions and renders them infeasible or not worthwhile, and often requires businesses to add expensive new equipment or systems. In other words, it wastes productive labor and capital on busy work and bureaucracy with zero to little economic value for a business or its would-be customers.
The business bears the costs of compliance directly; its potential customers, indirectly. It is a textbook example of what economists call “deadweight loss,” a form of wealth destruction.
The Biden administration, however, has chosen deliberately to rule by an onerous regulatory regime. For example, when reading “swarms of officers to harass our people and eat out their substance,” who doesn’t think of Biden’s 87,000 new IRS agents?
Sometimes — such as his vaccine mandate through OSHA — Biden has even acknowledged he lacks the authority to do what he is ordering. His answer to people threatening to sue to have courts restore their rights? “Have at it.”
The 2022 edition of Clyde Wayne Crews’ annual snapshot of the federal regulatory state, “Ten Thousand Commandments,” estimated that the total cost of federal regulations on the Nation’s economy was $1.927 trillion. If that were a country’s GDP, it would beat out Italy as the eighth-largest economy in the world. Crews estimated that households essentially paid “$14,684 annually on average in a hidden regulatory tax.”
Under the Biden administration, regulatory costs figure to soar. Crews noted that “Biden’s repudiation of the Trump deregulatory agenda is thorough.” It includes removing even such beneficial deregulatory measures as “one-in/two-out” rulemaking (making agencies retire two old rules before adding a new one) and sunset with periodic review.
Recently, on Sept. 6, 2022, the NLRB proposed classifying employers who use people from staffing firms, franchisees, vendors, contractors, etc., as “joint employers.” The NLRB would roll back a Trump-era liberalization that recognized a wider variety of employer/employee relationships. The NLRB rule would raise firm costs and chill hiring and such contractual arrangements.
Currently, joint employers would each need to exert significant, direct control over the workers’ terms and conditions of employment, but the NLRB’s proposed rule would broaden it to “reserved” (i.e., unused) “and/or indirect” (i.e., conceptual) control. Such a sweeping change would make many secondary employers suddenly liable to union pressures, collective bargaining and picketing, and also to being held responsible for illegal labor practices by the other employer. The workers would also then be subject to involuntary union dues withholding.
Then on Oct. 13, 2022, the Biden administration’s Department of Labor took direct aim at the gig economy, getting rid of another Trump-era worker protection by proposing to reclassify most independent contractors as “employees.” The rule would destroy worker independence in fields across the economy, ranging from trucking, consulting, ridesharing and writing to a host of service industries.
Think of that this winter.
Americans need to be liberated from the Biden administration’s harassing swarm of meddlesome bureaucrats armed with an ever-increasing set of burdensome regulations. Freeing up America’s labor and capital to spend more time in productive activities would go a long way to restoring our economic vitality.
Rather than eating our substance, the Biden administration should step back and let us return to creating, not destroying, wealth.
Jon Sanders serves as Senior Fellow in the Center for American Prosperity at America First Policy Institute and is the Director of the Center for Food, Power, and Life for the John Locke Foundation in Raleigh, North Carolina.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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