The PJ Tatler

How Obama Could Improve the Economy Immediately

Over the weekend, President Obama re-iterated his favorite talking point on the economy. He called on his political opponents to “put country before party” and said Congress could act “right now” on free trade agreements that would spur economic growth. Aside from not being factually true — Congress cannot act on international agreements that the president hasn’t sent to Congress yet — these free trade agreements’ impact on the US economy isn’t likely to be very strong. Don’t get me wrong; free trade is generally the right way to go. But its stimulative effect is dubious when there is little demand, tight credit and rising fear across the US economy.

The fact is, the president doesn’t even need Congress to do anything to help spur economic growth. He has it within his power to take action, today, that would help get the economy moving again. Rep. Eric Cantor gets at what the president can do in an op-ed today:

In fact, the Obama administration’s anti-business, hyper-regulatory, pro-tax agenda has fueled economic uncertainty and sent the message from the administration that “we want to make it harder to create jobs.” There is no other conclusion for policies such as the new Environmental Protection Agency regulations, including the “Transport Rule,” which could eliminate thousands of jobs, or the ozone regulation that would cost upward of $1 trillion and millions of jobs in the construction industry over the next decade. The administration’s new maximum achievable control technology standards for cement are expected to affect nearly 100 cement plants, setting over-the-top requirements resulting in increased costs and possibly thousands of jobs being offshored. There is the president’s silence as the National Labor Relations Board seeks to prevent Boeing from opening a plant in South Carolina that would create thousands of jobs. Such behavior, coupled with the president’s insistence on raising the top tax rate paid by individuals and small businesses, has resulted in a lag in growth that has added to the debt crisis, contributing to our nation’s credit downgrade.

It was only last week that the president unilaterally made it easier for millions of illegal aliens to remain in the US, where they are likely to depress wages and drive up unemployment among the nation’s lower skilled workers. He put politics — his flagging support among Hispanics — above the needs of the economy. If he can take that action, then why can’t he take action to rein in the regulatory state? Obama’s EPA is set to force a pair of rules that will result in power plant shutdowns and rolling blackouts, and drive food prices higher. These shutdowns will have knock-on effects on coal mining and transport, threatening jobs from one end of the country to the other. The EPA’s “dust rule” likewise threatens farmers at a time when the drought in Texas alone is estimated to cost over $5 billion and is likely to cause food price inflation.

President Obama could issue an executive order freezing all regulatory rule-making across the executive branch to, say, January 2009. Taking this action would immediately halt the threats of power plant shutdown and give agribusiness and farmers confidence that they will not have to deal with drought, adverse economic conditions and increased costs from new regulations at the same time. And by taking this action, President Obama would get all the credit for any improvements the change produces.

Rep. Cantor says the Republicans are going to take on the regulatory state when Congress comes back in session.

That is why this fall the Republican Party will pursue a legislative agenda that boosts economic growth through reducing the regulatory and tax burden. We will make sure that Washington policies are less restrictive to businesses small and large. Our goals include repealing the “3 percent withholding rule,” which serves as an effective tax increase on those who do business with the government, and overturning the EPA’s proposed regulations that inhibit jobs in areas as varied as cement and farm dust. We plan to prevent the NLRB from inhibiting where a business chooses to create jobs. We well know that the Republican majority was not elected to raise taxes or take more money out of the pockets of hardworking families and business people. We were elected to change the way Washington does business and spends money.

The fact is, whatever the GOP House does, the Democratic Senate is likely to block. We saw that with Cut, Cap and Balance, and we’ll see it again and again between now and the 2012 elections.

Obama could move decisively, do something that’s both politically popular and economically smart, and get all of the credit for reining in his own regulatory state. He could do it today, even while he remains on vacation. And issuing such an executive order wouldn’t cost a dime.

That he isn’t, and won’t, ordering his regulatory state to stand down tells the nation just how serious he really is about putting the country and the millions of unemployed before his own political agenda.