Vol. 49, No. 4

In this edition

With Congress reaching agreement this year on plans to rebuild our roads, reform our schools, and expand foreign markets through global trade, the latest edition of THE RIPON FORUM looks at another area where common sense and compromise are needed in 2016 — overregulation.

Congress, Heal Thyself

Seldom has there been such widespread agreement in Washington among Republicans and Democrats, Senators and House members, and most of the general public: Congress doesn’t function and something needs to change, soon.

Making Our Auto Safety Laws Work Better

Following a record year of vehicle recalls due to safety defects, it is clear that automakers must do more to meet those standards, and congruently, NHTSA must do more to enforce them.

The FCC: Obama’s Broadband Bully

The current administration pushes federal agencies to twist existing laws until they are unrecognizable. This explains many of the Federal Communication Commission’s actions in the last few years, and it has just embarked on its boldest regulatory experiment yet – regulating our modern printing presses – broadband providers and other Internet-based media companies.

Q&A with Mike Oxley about the career of John Boehner

With John Boehner stepping down as Speaker of the House earlier this fall, the Forum sat down with former Ohio Congressman Mike Oxley to ask him about the career of his good friend and colleague.

Regulatory Reform That Restores Government Of, By, and For the People

Fixing the administrative state and reducing the broken regulatory system in America is about much more than economics. It is about holding government accountable, putting a stop to corruptive influences in Washington, and ending the proliferation of bad rules.

How Congress Can Fix Broken Government

American government today is run by dead people — past members of Congress who wrote all these statutes, and bureaucrats long gone who wrote the millions of words of regulations. Government is broken not mainly because past lawmakers were stupid, but because legislative programs almost never work out as planned.

Pen and Phone… Meet Liberty’s Meat Axe

If the “regulatory state” were a country, it would be the 10th largest, between Russia and India. Clearly, Congress has not only lost its grip on the power of the purse, it has relinquished its lawmaking power to federal agencies.

How Cutting Red Tape has Helped Fuel South Dakota’s Economic Success

When people around the country think about South Dakota, the first image that comes to mind is probably Mount Rushmore. But South Dakota is a great place to do business.

The Cost of Overregulation: America’s Small Business Owners Speak

THE RIPON FORUM recently contacted the National Federal of Independent Business with a simple request – namely, to find out how federal rules and regulations are affecting the 325,000 small and independent business owners they represent around the United States.

Fighting Government Red Tape: What the Next President Might Do

When it comes to reining in the regulatory state, there are are key differences about the2016 presidential candidates that could be a factor in the election next year.

Ripon Profile of Carlos Curbelo

The U.S. Representative from Florida’s 26th Congressional District discusses his first year in office and broadening the GOP’s base.

Regulations are the Fourth Branch of Government

Too often, American businesses are targeted by bureaucrats and regulators. Webs of red tape ensnare corporations and small mom-and-pop shops alike, and companies are faced with the tough choice of whether to continue running their businesses. The nameless, faceless government agencies that dole out staggering amounts of rules have morphed into a fourth branch of […]

Fighting Government Red Tape: What the Next President Might Do


As Philip Howard correctly pointed out in his 1995 book, The Death of Common Sense, government has systematically replaced Adam Smith’s invisible hand with the visible fist of government regulation.  Unfortunately, government officials have doubled down on this losing proposition over the last twenty years.   Even more unfortunately, it is the American people who must pay for this failed bet and are paying dearly – to the tune of $1.9 trillion.

Today, the need to reverse this course has never been greater. As evidence of this, all of the presidential hopefuls from across the political spectrum have said that they are in favor of striking onerous regulations to help get government out of the way of businesses and help grow the middle class.  This aphoristic statement conceals as much truth as it contains, as several of these same candidates also want to impose new regulations.  This essay highlights the records of top Republican and Democratic candidates and outlines what they are likely to do if elected as President.

When it comes to the Republican Party, every candidate is united on two fronts: the need to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and the idea that the middle class has been harmed due to overregulation.  Some are more vociferous on these than others, with several supporting a freeze on new regulations, but the message is all largely the same.  When it comes to growing the middle class, however, the differences are vast.

When it comes to the Republican Party, every candidate is united on two fronts: the need to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and the idea that the middle class has been harmed due to overregulation.

Donald Trump wants to tackle the issue of a stagnating middle class by making it more expensive for American consumers to buy imports through aggressive tariffs and quotas.  The idea here is that forcing American consumers to buy more American made products will create middle class jobs.  Sadly, making consumers pay more for goods and services is a path towards poverty, not prosperity.

Marco Rubio is making a name for himself with his regulatory budget plan, essentially the idea that the only way to get a new regulation passed is to strike an equally costly regulation from the books.  In his time in the Senate, Rubio has been a champion of deregulation, notably his 2012 vote to allow individuals to import FDA-approved drugs from Canada.   Allowing people to buy approved drugs from approved vendors in other countries would help keep healthcare costs down for everyone.  He also wants to restrict H1B visas to high skilled foreign workers and ban companies that “abuse them from ever using them again,” but it’s unclear what his metric will be.

On the Democrat side, the general consensus is that corporate greed and Wall Street excess are ruining the middle class and that the solution is to regulate the behaviors that cause these problems to go away. What’s also clear is that the Democrats believe – given the primacy these issues have received at the debates – that imposing these new regulations is more important than striking onerous ones.  To be sure, there are differences between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, but they don’t seem as wide as the differences between the Republicans (at least, at the time of this writing).

Hillary’s campaign focuses on excess corporate greed and the idea that the one-percent are exploiting the workers, earning record profits while the wages of the middle class have either stagnated or declined.  At the first debate, she opened by saying that she wants to “find ways so that companies share their profits with the workers who helped to make them.” She wants to regulate companies into giving paid family leave, has voted for mandatory equal pay for women, and wants to promote long-term growth by discouraging short-term profits through tax policy.

On the Democrat side, the general consensus is that corporate greed and Wall Street excess are ruining the middle class and that the solution is to regulate the behaviors that cause these problems away.

Bernie Sanders almost certainly agrees with Hillary Clinton on the above, but places a larger share of the blame for the current economic disaster on Wall Street.  He wants to “reregulate” the banking system, believing that the Great Recession was a direct product of banking deregulation; deregulation which according to a Mercatus Center study didn’t happen. He also wants to reign in Wall Street speculating through a special tax and use the revenue from this new tax to pay for college tuition.  Whether or not this plan is viable remains to be seen, but history has shown that college tuition has increased almost in lock step with increases in government subsidies for education, suggesting that this is perhaps not the wisest of plans.

While each candidate has recognized the need for relief from a broken regulatory system, most want to replace or supplement what we have currently.  There are two exceptions to this: Ben Carson and Jeb Bush.  As of this writing, it’s difficult to say in detail what Carson would want to regulate, though we do know from his 2012 book that he believes some markets do need regulation, with health insurance being his go-to example.

When it comes to Jeb Bush, he talks the talk of a deregulator and, as his track record in Florida demonstrates, he also walks the walk of a deregulator.  He has a specific regulatory reform plan.  Like Rubio, he wants a regulatory budget.  He also wants to get Washington out of the business of regulating and return that power to the states, reserving federal power only for cases where “state-based solutions are insufficient.”  Further, he wants to “streamline the permit process so that infrastructure projects can be permitted or rejected within two years” and put a freeze on new regulations.  These are lofty goals that will lead to a tremendous reduction in the costs of overregulation if he can implement them.

While there may be problems in society that require regulation to solve, 1) that number is closer to zero than most candidates seem to think and 2) the number of problems that overregulation has caused is far greater.  Looking through the Federal Registry, every single industry has regulations in place that may have been sensible in 1975 but are patently absurd in 2015, with the number of regulations growing each and every year since.  By constantly changing the rules, government has created intense regime uncertainty in the business world and wrought havoc on our economy.  The current administration has been especially good at creating this regime uncertainty, and it looks as if the Democratic candidates are most likely to continue this trend.

David J. Hebert has a Ph.D. in Economics from George Mason University and is currently an assistant professor of Economics at Ferris State University.  His specialties include taxation, regulation, and public policy.