Boots & Sabers

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0657, 06 Oct 15

Ozone Baby

My column for the West Bend Daily News is online. Here it is:

Years after the Great Recession ended, the American economy is still limping along. In response, the Obama administration is moving forward with harsh regulations that will take a baseball bat to the knees of Uncle Sam.

The latest monthly jobs report was released by the Labor Department and it was another dismal view into the American economy. The nation only created 142,000 jobs in September. That’s far short of the 203,000 new jobs that economists were expecting and even farther short of the 300,000-400,000 new monthly jobs that would indicate strong growth. The report also revised the reports from July and August down to 223,000 and 136,000 new jobs, respectively.

The other news in the report was not any better. A record 94.6 million Americans are no longer participating in the labor force at all. The labor participation rate is at its lowest point in almost 40 years. This is partly due to aging baby boomers retiring, but also because more people of working age are choosing to not work. This is a trend of America moving back to a 1950s-style workforce where one worker supported a spouse and kids, but more indicative of more people choosing the social safety net over gainful employment. This means that we now have 157 million Americans working and paying taxes to support the other 161 million.

On top of all that, wages for Americans remain flat. Average hourly earnings for all employees on private, nonfarm payrolls declined by a penny to $25.09. Wages are stagnant while the cost of healthcare, groceries and energy continues to rise.

In order to ensure that the American economy remains hobbled and perhaps nudge it back into recession, President Barack Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency has decided to foist a costly new regulation on American industry. The EPA has set another rule establishing strict air quality standards for ozone. They are reducing the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ground-level ozone limits from 75 to 70 parts per billion.

While such a change sounds innocuous, it represents a massive regulation on American industry that likely cannot be met with today’s technology. The National Association of Manufacturers released a study showing that compliance costs with the new rule will exceed $1.1 trillion, making it the most expensive single regulation in history.

Those costs will fall disproportionately on American manufacturers and their customers. Manufacturers both large and small will be forced to spend thousands of dollars trying to comply with the regulations. By raising the cost of manufacturing in America at the same time that Americans’ stagnant wages cannot afford more expensive goods, the EPA’s ozone regulation will push more manufacturers overseas to countries that are more amenable to their success.

Wisconsin will be hit especially hard by the new ozone regulation. Wisconsin is still a manufacturing state. It has the highest number of per capita manufacturing jobs in the nation. Manufacturing is also the single largest employment sector in the state. Also, average wages for manufacturing jobs are well above the average for other kinds of jobs. There is no way to get around the fact that manufacturing is good for Wisconsin. The new regulation will disproportionately hammer Wisconsin’s economy.

Surely our founding fathers never envisioned a nation where a powerful federal agency in faraway Washington, D.C., would have the power to enact oppressive laws that will cost Americans hundreds of billions of dollars and force thousands of them out of work. The law is going into effect without a single vote being held by Americans’ elected representatives. It is the essence of despotic rule.

Obama seems content, if not intent, on leaving a burning husk of an American economy when he finally leaves the White House for the final time. The EPA is his blowtorch.


0657, 06 October 2015

1 Comment

  1. scott

    The economic crash brought about by the DEregulation of the financial industry. The recovery made anemic by the austerity brought on by misplaced concern about debt. Business says regulating them will be the Worst Thing Ever? Yawn. Business has been doing that since the invention of regulation. Yet seatbelts didn’t sink the auto industry. Weird.

    But what’s most disturbing is your reference to “despotic rule.” Stop with the inflammatory rhetoric. It isn’t helpful. And seriously? Do you not know how regulatory agencies work? When congress passes a law like the Clean Air Act it doesn’t include every detail about every pollutant and how much is ok. Congress–our elected representatives–authorizes agencies like the EPA to flesh out those details, implement the law and penalize those who fail to comply. It’s their totally non-despotic job–and you know it.

    If you think it’s a bad policy say so. Stop criminalizing those you disagree with.

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