Sometimes our economic or policy challenges become so big and so daunting that politicians, pundits and the media have to use dramatic or catastrophic images in nature to effectively describe them. The fiscal cliff comes to mind. Next up? The regulatory flood. That’s what the Wall Street Journal called the slew of coming regulations in a recent editorial.
Flood, unfortunately, is an accurate description. The impact of looming regulations — large and small — will hit the markets, companies and consumers with tremendous force. In the meantime, uncertainty hangs over the economy.
The Dodd-Frank financial reform law mandates 447 new rules — and regulators have finalized only a third of them. Even after all those regulations are on the books, Dodd-Frank will fall short of the reform we need and is likely to restrict access to capital and increase compliance costs.
Health and Human Services has yet to issue major rules stemming from the Affordable Care Act. On the docket is the establishment and operation of state health-care exchanges, changes to Medicaid following the Supreme Court ruling, and the future of Medicare Advantage. All of these regulations will have dramatic impacts on health-care costs and availability.
The Environmental Protection Agency aims to make the construction and operation of coal-fired plants financially infeasible through regulation. It could issue federal rules on hydraulic fracturing that could seriously undermine the potential of shale energy. And if the EPA moves forward with rules on greenhouse gas emissions — and applies them beyond power plants and refineries — it could ensnare roughly 6 million facilities in burdensome permitting requirements, costing the economy hundreds of billions of dollars. Those facilities could include schools, hospitals, farms, restaurants and churches.
A new study by the National Association of Manufacturers shows that six major EPA regulations could cost up to $630 billion, 2 million to 9 million jobs, and as much as 4.2 percent of GDP.
People can and will argue over the individual merits of various regulations. The intent of many proposed rules could make sense — even if the execution doesn’t. But what can’t be debated is that if we continue to weigh down our small and large businesses with layers of regulation, it will have a negative effect on growth and jobs.
Bad policies don’t fall from the sky. Ill-conceived rules aren’t swept in with the tide. These are problems of our own making, and we must change what we can. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is working to fight onerous rules and advance systemic regulatory reform so we can remain a productive, innovative and free economy.
— Tom Donohue is president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.