America's unemployment problem isn't get- ting any better. The Labor Department announced Thursday that jobless claims remained essentially unchanged, meaning 9.1 percent are without work. President Obama's response to the situation has been a call for more government intervention, so soon the only places hiring will be federal and state agencies.
A peek at how bad things might get can be found in court papers filed earlier this month by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The agency is defending sweeping greenhouse-gas emissions rules that if fully implemented would require 10,000 new state-level employees to process permits. At the federal level, it would take 230,000 new officials and a $21 billion budget expansion - quite a boost for an outfit that currently has 17,417 bureaucrats and $10.3 billion to spend. EPA admits it would be "absurd or impossible to administer" the rules all at once, but "that does not mean that the agency is not moving toward the statutory thresholds."
Limiting the number of industries that have to comply right away means the paperwork won't become much of a burden on lazy public servants uninterested in being at their desks one minute past 5 p.m. So a "tailoring rule" grants the bureaucracy the authority to decide which companies are punished and which get a free pass. "Indeed, administering a large regulatory program in steps, rather than all at once on the program's effective date, is fairly typical for agencies," EPA explained. Not surprisingly, the first targets are the boogeymen of the left: power plants and refineries.
In 1992, Al Gore called the internal combustion engine a threat "more deadly than that of any military enemy," so going after gasoline is the logical next step - one that's not going very well. Left-wing extremists are baffled that the public is turning up its nose at GM's electric-powered Volt sedan even with the government offering purchasers a $7,500 cash bribe. Just 3,500 of these glorified golf carts have left the showroom, compared with 614,716 of the big Ford F-150 and Chevy Silverado pickup trucks sold this year.
"Somehow or other they thought there was going to be a magic switch that they were going to flip that would ostensibly take us into the age of the Jetsons," said Charles T. Drevna, president of the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association. In a meeting with The Washington Times editorial page on the impact of proposed regulations, he explained, "If you enact any of these things, it's going to throw us back to the Flintstones."
Mr. Drevna argues that eliminating the worst of the EPA's regulations would spark a renaissance in American industry. Pointless government mandates and boutique fuel requirements drive up the cost of gasoline. Allowing cheaper gas and electricity would significantly lower costs for manufacturing. Cheaper goods are more competitive, so greater sales would result in more hiring and jobs.
We've tried Mr. Obama's government-centered approach; it has been a disaster. Instead of teeing up 230,000 jobs for paper-shuffling clock-watchers, we ought to free up American industry. With the 2012 election on the horizon, the White House temporarily delayed some of the EPA's worst ideas. It's important to realize this moratorium ends if the O Force is still in power in 2013.
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