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Republicans Want to Freeze Government Regulation—Forever? | The Nation

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George Zornick

George Zornick

Action and dysfunction in the Beltway swamp. E-mail tips to george@thenation.com

Republicans Want to Freeze Government Regulation—Forever?

Republicans are pushing a very dangerous bill in the House of Representatives this week that would freeze much of the federal government’s regulatory power until the unemployment rate reaches 6 percent. Well, that’s what they say anyway—an embarrassing error (we hope) in their bill would make the rollback virtually permanent.

The “Red Tape Reduction and Small Business Job Creation Act” is yet another attempt by Congressional Republicans to use ostensible job creation as a gloss for rolling back government protections. Naturally, the problem with the economy today is that demand is insufficient—companies are posting record profits, and our current malaise is not an issue of corporations being over-regulated but rather lacking strong markets to sell products.

Rolling back regulations won’t create new jobs, as even Bruce Bartlett, an economic adviser to Ronald Reagan, has said. But beyond failing to stimulate employment, this “Red Tape” bill would halt a number of crucial regulations during tough times for many Americans. Namely, it would:

  • prevent annual updates for Medicare providers, including hospitals, which could threaten elder care;

  • block anything done by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or other federal agencies to protect Americans from abuses by mortgage companies, credit card companies, debt collectors and other financial firms;

  • block implementation of looming tougher carbon-emission standards;

  • and prevent the Veterans’ Benefits Improvement Act of 2010 from being finalized, which aims to help veterans with home loans, among other things, and helps injured veterans get special housing and medical benefits.

Republicans say all of these regulations, and many more, should be halted until unemployment reaches 6 percent. But the text of their bill, as passed out of the Rules Committee this month, would actually permanently entrench the freeze. In what we will charitably assume for now was an error, since it doesn’t line up with any public statements about the legislation, the bill text actually says the government can’t start regulating again until employment reaches 6 percent—that is, until unemployment reaches 94 percent.

(b) DETERMINATION.—The Secretary of Labor shall submit a report to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget when the Secretary determines that the Bureau of Labor Statistics average of monthly employment rates for any quarter beginning after the date of the enactment of this Act is equal to or less than 6.0 percent.

This is a pretty embarrassing and central mistake in what the US House of Representatives is treating as a “marquee” bill this week. Of course, if this really is an attempt stop all regulations forever—while simultaneously making the federal government look hapless and helpless—then mission accomplished.

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