Ran in October 19, 2010 Washington Times print edition
Our nation is confronted with serious problems that require a fundamental reassessment of the size and role of government. With unemployment near 15 percent in many parts of the country, an unsustainable debt and unbridled federal spending, people fear the actions of a federal government that has grown too large and hinders rather than encourages economic growth. Folks desire a government that is responsive to their concerns and responsible with the resources they provide it. They want government returned to its proper, more limited role in their lives. They want a government that fosters the right conditions for job creation and economic growth.
This Democrat-controlled Congress has exploded the size of government, expanded government into more sectors of our economy, driven the national debt to unprecedented levels, placed spending on a trajectory that imperils future generations, and created a hostile environment for businesses large and small, turning a blind eye to the seemingly endless job-killing red tape coming from the administration. This Congress has failed to exercise oversight over agencies that have been developing regulations that stifle private investment and send American jobs overseas. As the late Walter Wriston, who advised President Reagan on economic policy during my tenure at the Office of Management and Budget, once said, "Capital will go to where it's wanted and stay where it's treated well."
Should Republicans recapture the House in November, we will have a fundamentally different approach. Over the past four years, the priorities of Congress have fallen out of sync with those of the American people. For instance, one of Nancy Pelosi's first acts as House speaker was to create a new Select Committee on Climate Change. To date, this new select committee has needlessly spent nearly $8 million in taxpayer money, and that does not account for the countless dollars spent on so-called "fact finding" missions. By law, this select committee has no legislative role; its sole purpose is to write reports. The only jobs created by this committee are within the confines of Capitol Hill. The American people do not need Congress to spend millions of dollars to write reports and fly around the world. We must terminate this wasteful committee.
During the final two years of the George W. Bush administration, Mrs. Pelosi and oversight committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman were eager to exert Congress' oversight authority. They made countless inquiries, requested reams of documents and repeatedly called Cabinet secretaries and agency leaders to testify under oath. No program or executive action went unnoticed or unchecked. Oddly, we have not seen the same enthusiasm since the Obama administration has taken the helm. As a result, the economy has worsened, government spending is at an all-time high, and federal agencies are rampantly codifying more regulations that create a disincentive for private investment and the hiring of new employees. It is the constitutional duty of the House of Representatives to provide a check on the power of the executive branch. Over the past two years, the Pelosi-controlled Congress has been derelict in its duty.
We keep asking, "Where is the economic growth? Where are the jobs?" Because of the administration's restrictive regulatory stranglehold on industry, companies are lacking the certainty or financial flexibility to hire new employees or invest in new plants or equipment. Instead, they hang onto their capital knowing that regulatory costs and taxes will increase, thus limiting their ability to invest for the future. It is a glaring indictment of current policies that U.S. enterprises are resigned to sit back and gain interest on their stockpiles of cash rather than invest and innovate.
Private enterprise, not government, is the heart and soul of our economy. By discouraging private investment, we eviscerate job growth. Regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Federal Communications Commission and other agencies are only further smothering the economy. The government cannot buy or regulate its way out of this mess. It's time for a new approach.
If the EPA continues unabated, jobs will be shipped to China and India as energy costs skyrocket. Most of the media attention has focused on the EPA's efforts to regulate climate-change emissions, but that is just the beginning. The EPA is working on a regulatory train wreck that includes the following job-killing regulations:
Cooling water intake systems for power plants: Costs would range from $300 million per coal plant (413 facilities impacted) to $1 billion for nuclear (59 units impacted). As a result, many plants would be shuttered and energy prices will rise significantly.
Coal ash: Under current regulations, coal byproducts are widely recycled, creating jobs and protecting the environment. New EPA regulations could cost more than $20 billion and tens of thousands of jobs.
Industrial and commercial boilers: New EPA regulations put nearly 800,000 jobs at risk.
Revised ozone: Created without any new scientific evidence, this new rule would have a crushing impact on jobs (in the neighborhood of 7 million jobs lost) and business expansion nationwide with an estimated cost approaching $1 trillion annually.
These are just a handful of the job-killing regulations the EPA is finalizing, and that is just one agency.
Under a Republican Congress, setting the stage for economic growth and protecting jobs will be a top priority and we will reassert our constitutional oversight authority. Federal government agencies have overstepped their authority and have not been held accountable for their aggressive actions. No significant regulation should take effect until Congress has voted to approve it and the president has had an opportunity to approve or veto congressional action. Right now, these regulations are free to hide in the shadows of the Federal Register. By shedding additional light on the regulatory beast, we can keep government limited and accountable.
Our government was once of the people, by the people, for the people. The pendulum has swung too far in the wrong direction. If the gavel is taken out of Mrs. Pelosi's grasp, we will fight for economic growth and jobs and restore the American public's faith and pride in their government.
Rep. Fred Upton is a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Michigan. He could be the next chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee if Republicans take over the House in upcoming elections.