by R. Lee Wrights
BURNET, Texas (Nov. 19) – President Obama has found something else to blame for the recession, adding to a list that includes his Republican predecessors, the weather, and fortune. He thinks that American business people are “lazy” because they haven’t focused more on attracting foreign investment. The president told a group of CEOs at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Hawaii recently that they’ve “been a little bit lazy … over the last couple of decades” because they had “taken for granted” that “people will want to come here” and were not “out there hungry, selling America and trying to attract new business into America.”
I don’t know if it is more appalling that President Obama once again used a foreign trip to criticize America or that he is so very, very out of touch with reality. He obviously has not read, probably has not even seen, the Code of Federal Regulations, which clutters more than 25 feet and ten shelves in the Library of Congress. The CFR is a compilation of all the rules and regulations written by all federal executive departments and agencies, under the statutory authority Congress gives them. It’s considered administrative law, written by lawyers for lawyers (and judges), and interpreted by bureaucrats.
In 2000, reporter John Stossel showed just how America’s licensing laws, government regulation and taxation stifle business. He did a report for ABC news on his attempt to open a Frisbee store that met all legal and regulatory requirements in Hong Kong, New York City and India. (“Is America Number One?” ABC News Special, Sept. 1, 2000) In Hong Kong the entire process took hours. In NYC it took weeks. In India it would have taken years! In another ABC program, Stossel took one title of the CFR, dealing with federal election laws, removed the pages from the binding, taped them together and rolled them out over the length of a football field, and halfway back again.
The CFR is so big that if you read 100 pages a day, every day, it would take you more than two years to complete it … but you probably never could finish reading because bureaucrats add more pages with every new piece of federal legislation. In a recent video posted on the website EconomicFreedom.org, the Charles Koch Institute noted that regulatory compliance costs U.S. businesses $1.75 trillion. That would be enough to hire 43 million workers, a quarter of the nation’s work force.
After chastising the business leaders for being “lazy,” the president said the solution to their indolence was to create — you guessed it — another federal bureaucracy to help foreigners cut the Gordian Knot of local, state and federal regulations. This is the classic technique used by politicians to increase their power. It’s the one thing government is good at. As Harry Browne said, “Government is good at one thing. It knows how to break your legs, hand you a crutch and say, ‘See, if it weren’t for the government you couldn’t walk.’”
The average federal regulator destroys 150 private sector jobs per year. State regulators do even more damage. Several states have attempted to drive African-Americans out of the hair-braiding business by requiring them to get a $5,000 cosmetology license — taking a year-long course from schools that don’t even teach braiding. Texas regulators force computer repair technicians to get a costly private investigator license that requires a three-year apprenticeship. Louisiana even force florists to pass a rigorous licensing exam, even though experts can’t tell which floral arrangements were created by “licensed” professionals.
Why then should any foreign investor want to spend money in the United States when our own local and federal governments treat productive and prosperous entrepreneurs as mere “sources of revenue,” to be regulated, controlled, and taxed to support the “less fortunate” or to serve the “common good.” Why should foreign businesses, banks and governments invest in America when they can simply lend money to an American government run by politicians who cannot control their spending addiction?
The problem is not that American business is lazy, it is that our ruling elites have bankrupted our country and continue to drive us deeper into debt. The problem is that our political leaders lack the moral and intellectual courage to make the hard choices needed to turn the economy around. Only by stopping the spending, and lifting the regulatory loads that burden-down entrepreneurs and stifles the creative and productive spirit of America, will we see our nation’s economy improve.
R. Lee Wrights, 53, a libertarian writer and political activist, is seeking the presidential nomination because he believes the Libertarian message in 2012 must be a loud, clear and unequivocal call to stop all war. To that end he has pledged that 10 percent of all donations to his campaign will be spent for ballot access so that the stop all war message can be heard in all 50 states. Wrights is a lifetime member of the Libertarian Party and co-founder and editor of the free speech online magazine Liberty For All. Born in Winston-Salem, N.C., he now lives and works in Texas.
Contact: Brian Irving, press secretary