The beauty of the conservatives’ “uncertainty” argument — that businesses aren’t creating jobs because of the uncertainty created by Obama policies — is that you can always raise the bar on it indefinitely. It doesn’t matter that conservatives are largely getting their way on the economy — the stimulus is winding down; tax cuts on the rich are still in place; Dems have agreed to massive spending cuts and are prioritizing the deficit; Obama’s jobs plan isn’t getting passed — and that we’re still struggling.
You see, there are always still other Obama policies in place that can be blamed for creating uncertainty and halting the recovery. That’s where the claim of “overregulation” comes in.
On Fox News today, John McCain offered the perfect illustration of this. He called for the elimination of “thousands” of new regulations he claimed are costing us “billions and billions of jobs”:
We have a plan and we’ll have almost all of the Republican Senators behind it. And if [Obama] wants to bring up a piece of his proposed plan, we’ll bring up a piece of ours.
We’d love to see, for example, a vote in the United States Senate on a moratorium on Federal regulations, which are coming out by the thousands, costing businesses billions and billions of jobs. We’d love to see a vote on that. But it will be interesting to see if the Majority Leader will allow it.
Now, I’m assuming McCain misspoke here, because the loss of billions and billions of jobs in a country with a population of just over 300 million would leave the unemployment rate at truly untenable levels. Perhaps he meant billions and billions of dollars.
That aside, this overarching claim has already been thoroughly debunked. The Associated Press recently did a bracing fact check and concluded that Labor Department data show that under Obama, just two-tenths of 1 percent of layoffs have been due to government regulation. McClatchy recently canvassed small businesses across the country and found little evidence that it’s a factor.
And Bruce Bartlett, a top policy adviser in the administrations of Reagan and the elder Bush, recently concluded that worry about regulatory uncertainty “is a canard invented by Republicans” and “not a serious effort to deal with high unemployment.” Bartlett argued that the focus on regulation is rooted in the GOP’s lack of any real ideas to create jobs.
Whether it was a verbal gaffe or whether McCain really believes it, his suggestion that rolling back regulations could save “billions and billions of jobs” only underscores how arbitrary and at odds with the data this prescription for “job creation” really is.