Most Americans know America’s biggest problem: too few jobs. Yet President Barack Obama could create more jobs by executive action, at no cost, generating billions of additional dollars in income tax revenues.
How? By instructing his Cabinet to hold off on job-killing regulations.
Our regulatory environment makes it harder to create jobs. Regulations are controlled by presidential appointees at the executive branch and independent agencies. Tougher regulations lead employers to locate elsewhere. Friendlier regulations draw them back home.
Take regulations affecting air quality. On Thursday, the Environmental Protection Agency issued its new Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, which requires states to improve air quality by reducing emissions that contribute to pollution in other states.
Another EPA rule, the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants, would establish new emission limits for coal- and oil-fired electric utility generators.
The agency asserts that these restrictive limits are necessary to protect public health. It portrays the costs of the regulation as small, and the benefits large. Yet the regulation will result in closure of coal-fired plants across the country, with an associated loss of jobs.
U.S. air quality has been steadily improving since 1980. As EPA states on its website, “since 1980, nationwide air quality, measured at more than a thousand locations across the country, has improved significantly for all six principal pollutants. These common pollutants are ground-level ozone, particle pollution, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and lead.”
The EPA’s links between improved air quality and health, the supposed benefit of these rules, are unclear. As air quality has improved between 1980 and 2001, the prevalence of asthma, a disease commonly associated with polluted air, has tripled, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Meanwhile, the Labor Department has been ratcheting up safety standards for coal miners. The new EPA regulations will discourage coal, which produces 45 percent of our electricity, from being burned in power plants, but it can be mined and exported.
Coal exports are significant, with 76 million tons in 2010, 23 percent higher than in 2009. Yet more than 30 new regulations for coal are on the Labor Department’s regulatory agenda.
These regulations, if implemented, would cause unemployment of miners and others in mining communities. By making coal more expensive, the government discourages energy-intensive industries from locating in America, encouraging them to flee abroad.
Then, consider drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. The BP oil spill occurred 15 months ago, and deepwater drilling has yet to resume in the Gulf, although some shallow-water activity has started.
The Department of the Interior could approve permits tomorrow and bring back some jobs and oil rigs lost to the region.
Let’s not forget that Lafe Solomon, acting general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board, wants to stop Boeing from using its new aircraft manufacturing plant in South Carolina to build Dreamliners. Boeing has a backlog of more than 800 Dreamliners on order.
Solomon has charged that Boeing’s decision to build a new plant at North Charleston, S.C., to expand production of Dreamliners, was made in retaliation for strikes by unionized employees at its Everett, Wash., plant, even though Boeing has added workers in Washington state since the strikes.
The NLRB’s action is sending a job-chilling signal to foreign and domestic companies that might want to locate plants in America. If Boeing had built its new plant in China, the NLRB would lack any authority over it.
With high unemployment a major concern, it’s time to look at some low-cost solutions. Mr. President, how about calling your Cabinet secretaries and asking for some regulatory reform?
Examiner columnist Diana Furchtgott-Roth, former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor, is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.