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To Improve Economic Mobility, Try Reducing Federal Red Tape

An economy is measured in numbers but made up of people.

President Obama never misses an opportunity to tout official figures that make it look as though there’s a recovery underway. Yet the fact that Americans don’t feel the economic recovery that’s supposedly happening is a big problem for Washington’s governing class.

As The Washington Post explains, “Presidential hopefuls in both parties agree on at least one thing: Economic mobility, and the feeling of many Americans that they are being shut out from the nation’s prosperity, will be a defining theme of the 2016 campaign.”

Republicans, including former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and 2012 candidate Mitt Romney, say they’re concerned about issues such as wage stagnation and poverty. The Post goes so far as to say: “Bush’s framing of the economic and social challenges facing the country nearly mirrors that of likely Democratic candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton, as well as other possible contenders on the left.”

That’s troubling if true.

“Don’t let anybody tell you that it’s corporations and businesses that create jobs,” Clinton cautioned voters at a campaign rally last October. As for what she called “trickle-down economics,” she added: “That has been tried, that has failed. It has failed rather spectacularly.”

Clinton later explained that what she meant was: “Our economy grows when businesses and entrepreneurs create good-paying jobs here in an America where workers and families are empowered to build from the bottom up and the middle out — not when we hand out tax breaks for corporations that outsource jobs or stash their profits overseas.”

But there’s little evidence the federal government is taking the right steps to encourage companies to create jobs. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Conservatives have a far different approach. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) both have books out laying out a better way to help those in poverty. A key element is getting government out of the way.

“The senator from Florida has called for significant reductions in federal regulations that he says will spur creation of better jobs,” the Post reports. “On education, he has offered a series of reforms designed to lessen the burden of student loan debt and expand access to apprenticeship programs.”

Those would be steps toward reducing government management of the economy. And that’s the real story over the years of the Obama administration: Overregulation of just about everything. Just after the election The Hill noted, “Business groups are bracing for an onslaught of regulations, with the Obama administration bent on completing a host of the president’s unfinished policy goals.” Those include dozens of new rules that would cost companies money and people jobs.

The EPA is setting ozone emission standards with what may be the most expensive regulation ever written. The FDA is rewriting restaurant menus. The FCC may write guidelines for the Internet. Meanwhile, Congress passes massive laws including ObamaCare and Dodd-Frank that wrap huge segments of the economy in red tape.

Everything from health care to banking is now being guided by bureaucrats in Washington. Their job isn’t to create jobs — it’s to write regulations that end up making things less efficient and more difficult. Roll those back, and you’ll create jobs everywhere. Except, of course, in Washington. Maybe that’s what makes the establishment so nervous.

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