Four-term U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) is seeking re-election this year, and 14 Republicans are lining up to challenge her. The choice of the Golden State's Republican bigwigs is the nonprofit executive Elizabeth Emken, who is the subject of my print column in the current issue of Reason.
In the FlashReport, Jon Fleischman continues his "ongoing effort to bring original, thoughtful commentary" by publishing Emken's policy paper on regulation.
I didn't have too many kind words for Emken, and I'm voting for Rick Williams in next week's primary. A few Emken supporters have written in to challenge my characterization of the candidate as weak tea. (Andrew Sullivan on the other hand says the piece was insufficiently zealous in its praise of America's sovereign ruler.) So in the interest of fairness, let me say that while Emken's policy paper didn't knock my socks off, it is way better than anything coming out of Feinstein lately. Some samples:
Does it surprise anyone that a recent video revealed an EPA official comparing his agency's methods of dealing with non-compliance with crucifixion?
This same story is happening every day, all over the country. Thanks to over-taxation, over-regulation and over-litigation, American companies are at a distinct competitive disadvantage. It's much easier to do business everywhere else but here, so if we're worried about "saving the environment," let's keep America's business environment in mind when we're making those decisions.
The simple truth is that our economy will be more productive when our political class removes the barriers to growth.
The annual cost of federal regulations in the United States increased to more than $1.75 trillion, according to a study commissioned by the Small Business Administration. That's equal to 12% of our entire economy. If every U.S. household had to pay an equal share of the federal regulatory burden, each of us would owe $15,586…
For example, an "economically significant regulation" is one that will cost more than $100 million. From 1998 to 2007, federal agencies announced between 50 and 80 major regulations per year. Today, federal agencies have proposed 219 economically significant regulations. That's over two and a half times the number of regulations from 5 years ago that will end up costing American taxpayers more than $100 million each.
In terms of total regulations, in each of the last three years more than 3,500 new regulations were adopted. At this very moment, there are 4,257 new regulations in the pipeline. That's the only pipeline I can think of that absolutely needs to be turned down.
I remain underwhelmed by Emken's intellectual thrust. Over what period did the annual cost of regulations increase to $1.75 trillion – Feinstein's time in office, the 21st century so far, the Obama Administration, or some other time frame? And the none-too-witty wordplay gets in the way of making actual points: Instead of the single-and-a-half entendre embedded in that "environment/business environment" line, how about noting that the supposed tension between vigorous capitalism and a sound environment is false, as should be clear to anybody who's visited a third world cement factory or a dried-up post-Soviet lake?
Still, the alternative to Emken's is DiFi's view that we need more regulation, that we need it without delay, and that the only thing holding back America's hens is the lack of a national laying standard set by Big Egg.
Emken's policy proposal:
Place a moratorium on new regulations exceeding $100 million except for cases of national security and repeal all recently enacted regulations exceeding $100 million unless they pass rigorous benefit tests.
Emken detractors have lately been playing up her role as a lobbyist in the Obamacare debate. (She wanted to get autism coverage added but says she didn't support the PPACA itself.) This video skirts the outside border of reality by calling her an "Obamacare lobbyist." A supporter of universal health care with an individual mandate can be the Republican presidential candidate, but apparently there are still some standards in the Senate.