Thursday was a bad day for government in the United States. You see, hundreds of job creators from across the country gathered in Dalton, Ga., for a summit about creating manufacturing jobs in America. By the time the summit ended, attendees had heard five hours of damning accounts of how government rules and regulations have kept jobs on the sidelines or shipped them away altogether.
The government's recklessness over the past several years - a combination of overreach and overspending that has resulted in our economy taking a prolonged bath - has been well documented. However, it's most jarring to hear about those offenses from the men and women who run our businesses and employ our people and on whom we ultimately rely to deliver us from 9 percent unemployment.
Thomas A. Fanning, CEO of Southern Co., caused a stir when he discussed the Environmental Protection Agency's proposed Utility Maximum Available Control Technology [MACT] rule, which threatens to shutter half of our nation's coal-generated power resources.
Werner Braun, president of the Carpet and Rug Institute, spoke in detail about California's proposal to severely limit the use of caprolactam, an organic compound vital to making nylon carpet fiber. Such a rule would stifle carpet manufacturing for more than one-third of the carpet produced in the United States.
Chip Howalt, president of Textile Rubber and Chemical Co., described the extensive regulatory burden on chemical manufacturers as well as the competitive disadvantage created by sales taxes on energy, the death tax and rising costs associated with Obamacare.
In fact, since becoming law, Obamacare has transformed from a 2,000-page bill into more than 6,000 pages of regulations and Federal Register notices.
Much of the summit also focused on how diminished access to domestic energy supply and related regulations stymie manufacturing jobs. As federal policies (or the lack thereof) drive up the price of energy, the cost of manufacturing increases dramatically, forcing companies that want to expand and compete globally to consider cheaper offshore locations.
Energy tycoon T. Boone Pickens, the summit's keynote speaker, spoke of his decades-long struggle to push Washington to develop a long-term national energy strategy. The consequence of the failure to act, he said, is that we import 65 percent of our oil, compared to just 24 percent in 1970.
Our relying so heavily on imported oil gives foreign countries a disturbing level of control over the cost of doing business in America. Yet, rather than focus on increasing domestic energy supply, the Obama administration has focused on controlling consumption. There has been a costly rash of regulation, from the de facto moratorium on lease sales for offshore drilling to the threat of a "cap-and-trade" energy-regulation system.
Taken as a whole, the Small Business Administration estimates that total federal regulatory costs in America amount to $1.75 trillion annually - a number that dwarfs the federal government's entire discretionary budget for 2011 and exceeds Canada's gross domestic product.
The cost of compliance is stunning, and it speaks to the heart of the employment issue in manufacturing and every sector of our economy. It's clear that to create more jobs, government at the federal and state levels must change course and embrace policies that drive down the cost of doing business in America.
One such policy in Congress is called the REINS (Regulations From the Executive in Need of Scrutiny) Act. This bill would require Congress to approve any proposed regulation that carries an economic impact of more than $100 million annually. This would put accountability for any new red tape squarely on elected representatives and end the threat of unelected bureaucrats circumventing the legislature. The bill, led by Rep. Geoff Davis, Kentucky Republican, has garnered 142 co-sponsors and grown in popularity and is part of the major House Republican plan for job creation.
So, for the unemployed in America, the greatest hope is for the regulatory burden to take a prominent place in the national conversation. Imagine if the trillions of dollars spent on government controls were used instead to create good-paying jobs. The manufacturing summit in Dalton was the start of that dream, and as job creators continue speaking out, they further expose excessive government for what it is: a destroyer of jobs.
Rep. Tom Graves is a freshman Republican from Georgia.
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