Last week, the Dodd-Frank Act — a sweeping law intended to reform our financial regulatory system — turned four years old. But it’s no milestone to celebrate. Dodd-Frank has become the poster child for all that’s wrong with our regulatory system, which errs on the side of excess, overreach, complexity and costliness.
Dodd-Frank layers 400 new rules on top of a regulatory framework that dates back to the 1930s. The rules are complicated, contradictory and overlapping. There are 20 different agencies working to implement those rules, a number of them jockeying for jurisdiction and authority. And there’s almost no coordination among them.
Worst of all, the massive law has done little if anything to actually bring needed reform to the financial regulatory system.
Obamacare is another problem child. The law, which places the equivalent of one-sixth of our economy under bureaucratic control, has been a mess from the start. From legal challenges and overturned provisions to administrative problems and implementation snafus, we are reminded again and again how poorly conceived and badly executed Obamacare has been. And the law hasn’t controlled costs — one of the primary reasons we needed reform in the first place.
Then there’s the Environmental Protection Agency — a true overachiever when it comes to regulatory overreach. Last year, the agency unveiled the first-ever greenhouse gas emissions caps for new power plants, effectively banning the construction of affordable and reliable coal plants. And earlier this year, the EPA proposed new regulations to limit carbon emissions at existing power plants. This complex set of mandates imposes a new regulatory framework on states that will transform how electricity is generated, distributed, transmitted and used.
The latest EPA special is a radical proposal to expand the definition of “Waters of the U.S.” under the Clean Water Act. The rule would subject farmers, ranchers, manufacturers, homebuilders and local governments to new layers of rules and permitting and give regulators greater control over how landowners use their property.
No one is arguing that we shouldn’t have any regulations. But in too many instances the government has gone too far. And if over-regulation is allowed to stand, we’ll continue to see the consequences.
Already, the onslaught of rules is creating uncertainty, stifling hiring and investment and undermining our recovery. It is upsetting the constitutional balance of powers and giving unelected bureaucrats unprecedented control over the lives and businesses of people across this nation.
We can stop the regulatory madness by replacing overreach and excess with common sense and clarity and by truly balancing the costs and the benefits.
— Tom Donohue is president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The opinions expressed are his own.