Meanwhile, the administration’s clear opposition to meaningfully increasing fossil-fuel production has never been more clear. Rather than speed up its absurdly slow approvals of deepwater drilling permits in the Gulf of Mexico — down from a monthly historical average of 5.8 to its current 1.7, at a cost of thousands of jobs — Obama decided to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Gas prices still went up. Only as the prospects of his reelection have begun to seriously diminish has Obama moved to appear more fossil fuel-friendly. But, conveniently enough, the administration’s most visible positive move thus far, the State Department’s conclusion that the 1,700-mile TransCanada pipeline won’t harm the environment, will have no immediate effect, and can be reversed later during other regulatory processes if he is reelected.
Never let it be said that the administration is against all pipelines. According to a recent compilation of related statistics by the National Center for Policy Analysis, “The Federal Register notes that more than 4,200 regulations are in the pipeline.” The aggressiveness and innate hostility of Team Obama’s highly irregular regulatory regime is unprecedented in postwar American history.
According to the Heritage Foundation, ObamaCare alone has added over 6,500 pages to the Federal Register. The administration recently trumpeted how it will reduce regulatory costs by $10 billion over five years. Big deal. That $2 billion per year average is only 0.11% of the estimated cost of regulatory compliance to consumers and businesses of $1.75 trillion in 2009 alone. Heaven knows how much higher the annual cost is now. According to Wyoming Senator John Barrasso, the administration largely undid most of its alleged improvement in July alone, as it “proposed over $9.5 billion in new regulatory costs.”
The relatively firm dollar amounts cited don’t include the difficult-to-quantify costs of regulatory uncertainty. One thing which is certain is that these are also going up. Just ask Boeing, Gibson Guitar, the health insurance companies intimidated into silence, and other businesses affected by the federal government’s heavy regulatory hand.
Besides obviously anemic economic growth, the most visible manifestation of uncertainty’s impact can be seen in the government’s two different sets of job statistics, as seen below:
The more inclusive Household Survey, based on phone calls to homes, shows that the economy had almost 700,000 fewer people working in July 2011 than were working twenty-five months earlier when the recession ended in June 2009. But the Establishment Survey, based on contacts with employers, shows that almost 700,000 more Americans were working for private and government employers. The overall effect is that there are almost 1.4 million fewer Americans who are either working on their own or working at entities the Establishment Survey is unable to find or estimate. About the only way to interpret this anomaly is that, on a net basis, many Americans who might in more regular times have considered starting a business simply aren’t doing it. The engine of future economic growth isn’t engaging.
The danger is that we as a nation may come to accept our administration-induced chronic irregularity as the way things will be indefinitely, or as what Obama cheerleaders in the establishment press try to tell us is “the new normal.” If we do, we won’t recognize our country in several years — which is why the irregularity must be stopped in seventeen months.