Conyers Calls Committee Hearing A Veiled Campaign Event
Washington, DC, September 26, 2012
This morning, Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) delivered the following opening statement during a House Judiciary Committee hearing entitled, “Regulation Nation: The Obama Administration’s Regulatory Expansion vs. Jobs and Economic Recovery”:
“As we begin this hearing, it is important that we note and appreciate the backgrounds of our witnesses.
“One of our witnesses is an economic advisor for Mitt Romney campaign. He also co-founded a group called ‘Economists for Romney.’ Welcome.
“Another witness has contributed $50,000 to Restore our Future, a Romney campaign PAC.
“The final witness is the chair of the North Carolina Catholics for Romney Committee.
“Today’s hearing is premised on certain assumptions that are simply false. First, the Majority makes the false assumption that regulations inhibit job creation even though there is absolutely no credible evidence establishing the fact that regulations have any substantive impact on job creation.
“And, that is not just me saying this. Bruce Bartlett, a senior policy analyst in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, explains:
‘Republicans have a problem. People are increasingly concerned about unemployment, but Republicans have nothing to offer them. The G.O.P. opposes additional government spending for jobs programs and, in fact, favors big cuts in spending that would be likely to lead to further layoffs at all levels of government[.]
‘These constraints have led Republicans to embrace the idea that government regulation is the principal factor holding back employment. They assert that Barack Obama has unleashed a tidal wave of new regulations, which has created uncertainty among businesses and prevents them from investing and hiring.
‘No hard evidence is offered for this claim; it is simply asserted as self-evident and repeated endlessly throughout the conservative echo chamber.’
“The Majority’s own witness clearly debunked the myth that regulations stymie job creation at a legislative hearing held last year. Christopher DeMuth, with the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, stated in his prepared testimony that the ‘focus on jobs . . . can lead to confusion in regulatory debates,’ and that, ‘the employment effects of regulation, while important, are indeterminate.’
Another unsubstantiated claim that the Majority makes in support of its anti-regulatory agenda is that ‘regulatory uncertainty is hurting the business community.’
Once again, Bruce Bartlett, the senior economic official from the Reagan and Bush Administrations, responds:
‘[R]egulatory uncertainty is a canard invented by Republicans that allows them to use current economic problems to pursue an agenda supported by the business community year in and year out. In other words, it is a simple case of political opportunism, not a serious effort to deal with high unemployment.’
“So make no mistake, today’s hearing is yet another example of that political opportunism recognized by Mr. Bartlett.
“And, perhaps the biggest canard in the Majority’s arguments for so-called regulatory reform is the purported $1.75 trillion cost of regulations based on a single study. This figure is utterly unreliable and meaningless. Again, don’t take my word for this. The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service conducted an extensive examination of the study and found much of its methodology to be flawed. Moreover, CRS noted that the study’s authors themselves acknowledged that their analysis was ‘not meant to be a decision-making tool for lawmakers or federal regulatory agencies to use in choosing the ‘right’ level of regulation.’ Professor Lisa Heinzerling, the Minority witness for today’s hearing, has just published a well-researched academic analysis of this study which outlines the numerous methodological flaws in that study. I hope my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will listen very closely to her testimony.
“Another reason to reject this meaningless figure: it completely and blatantly ignores the overwhelming benefits of regulations. According to the Office of Management and Budget, the net benefits of regulations through the third fiscal year of the Obama administration exceeded $91 billion, which is 25 times more than the net benefits during the first three years of the George W. Bush administration. OMB also reports that for fiscal year 2010, federal regulations cost between $6.5 billion and $12.5 billion, but generated between $18.8 billion and $86.1 billion in benefits.
“Another concern that I have about this hearing is that it is the 16th time that the Committee has considered what is essentially the same topic: federal agencies and rulemaking. I know regulations play a major role in ensuring the safety of the food we eat, the cars we drive, the air we breathe, and the medicine we consume. And that the Nation’s Great Recession was the result of too little, not too much regulation. Major financial distress in American history has often been triggered by a regulatory failure of some type. The Great Depression largely resulted from the failure of severely undercapitalized banks that engaged in imprudent lending practices and other speculative activities. The current Great Recession was largely fueled by an unregulated home mortgage industry and securitization market.
“But come on now. During the 112th Congress, this Committee has not held a single hearing on:
“I could go on and on listing the critical issues that this Committee – over the past 20 months – has failed to consider.
“Finally, if we were really serious about creating jobs, then we should be focusing on those measures that will actually result in creating jobs. Just over a year ago, President Obama addressed a joint session of Congress at which he presented his American Jobs Act, a comprehensive bill that would have:
“Unfortunately, Congress chose to ignore this worthy initiative.
“As many of you know, I have a measure – H.R. 4277, the ‘Humphrey-Hawkins 21st Century Full Employment and Training Act’ – which aims to provide a job to any American who seeks work. My bill would create a funding mechanism to pay for job creation and training programs. These jobs would be located in the public sector, community not-for-profit organizations, and small businesses that provide community benefits. But, like the president’s proposal, my legislation has not received any consideration during this Congress, which is unfortunate because both of these measures would have, in fact, created jobs and helped our nation’s economic recovery.
“It’s time we legislate based on facts, not rhetoric. Unfortunately, I fear today’s hearing will not enable us to accomplish that goal.”