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CUSTER: In the economic Olympics, U.S. is falling behind

America needs to go for the gold to recover financial freedom

- - Monday, August 6, 2012

Americans are enjoying the performance of Team USA in the Summer Olympics. In the olympics of economic freedom, the United States is way behind. Right now, we're not even close to the bronze medal. We're in 10th place and not improving.

Each year, several organizations publish rankings of countries based on their economic freedom -- their friendliness to commerce in areas such as rule of law, free markets and limited government. In 2012, the Heritage Foundation/Wall Street Journal report places the United States 10th and declining, as does the latest Fraser Institute report.

When star athletes fall behind and place lower than the top three, they make changes to become more competitive. They get new coaches, new equipment or new workout routines. They do anything necessary to get back in the top tier. They certainly don't continue the status quo that results in worse outcomes.

If Michael Phelps or Misty May-Treanor finished 10th in the Olympics, it would be an abysmal failure. They certainly wouldn't take measures that ensured a 12th- or 15th-place finish in the next competition.

Unfortunately, that is what our government is doing for economic freedom. More taxes, regulations and spending will pull us even lower on the economic freedom rankings.

President Obama's signature accomplishments have lowered our economic freedom ratings each year. Obamacare, the stimulus, increased regulations, bailouts, crony capitalism and more spending bring down the ratings because they reduce economic freedom. More than 70 major Obama regulations since 2009 cost us nearly $40 billion last year, the Heritage Foundation reports. Regulations centralize power in Washington and reduce individual and state freedoms.

Our country should take measures right away to move from 10th to first. Spending cuts, reduced regulations and more localized decision-making would really improve the rankings. It's ironic that the 10th-place country has a 10th Amendment that limits federal power and retains states' prerogative to act on what is not enumerated in the Constitution.

The 10th-place ranking signifies a demotion from "free" to "mostly free," according to the report. This is the same as an Olympic athlete taking a demotion from "Olympic medalist" to "participant." Why don't we take measures to move back up the rankings instead of down?

"Restoring the U.S. economy to the status of a 'free' economy will require significant policy changes to reduce the size of government, overhaul the tax system and transform costly entitlement programs," the report's editors say. Let's get started so we move up the rankings, not down.

Roger Custer is executive director of America's Future Foundation.