by Jeb Bush
Sept. 22, 2015 6:43 p.m. ET
To understand what is wrong with the regulatory culture of the U.S. under President Obama, consider this alarming statistic: Today, according to the World Bank—not exactly a right-wing think tank—the U.S. ranks 46th in the world in terms of ease of starting a business. That is unacceptable.
Think what the U.S. could be and the prosperity we could have if we rolled back the overregulation that keeps us from ranking in the top 10. It wouldn’t just be easier to start a business. It would also be easier to find a job, get lifesaving medicine, get a loan, and see a doctor or health professional. Costs and prices would go down. The U.S. economy, stalled in the worst economic expansion since World War II, would be unleashed. Regulatory reform alone could add more than three percentage points to U.S. GDP by 2025.
Since January 2009, the Obama administration has mired America’s free market in a flood of creativity-crushing and job-killing rules. This administration has issued rules targeting banks, farms, medical offices, hospitals, credit unions, insurers, tanning and nail salons, power plants, factories, federal contractors, cars, trucks and appliances. And in perhaps its most shocking display of regulatory overreach, it is regulating the Internet as a public utility, using a statute written in the 1930s.
If you’re wondering why it’s hard to get a mortgage, why no new banks are opening up, why your power bill will be going up, why your health insurance costs more, why we don’t build new highways, why you can’t get medicines that are available in Europe, Barack Obama’s rules are a big part of the story.
These rules create a moat around America’s wealthiest and well-connected. They can afford to comply and absorb the costs. The burden of meeting the new rules’ requirements falls heaviest on everyone else through higher prices. And if a business can’t pass on the cost of new rules to consumers, it just cuts wages or jobs.
The increased cost of new regulations, in time and money, has been phenomenal. According to the American Action Forum, since Mr. Obama took office, new regulations have resulted in an additional 443 million hours of paperwork each year for Americans. All told, according to the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s 2015 report on the federal regulatory state, regulations impose a $1.88 trillion silent tax on the U.S. economy each year—that’s nearly $15,000 per family. For every second of his presidency, Mr. Obama has added roughly $3,100 in regulatory burdens to the economy.
It’s time we did a better job regulating the regulators. My goal as president would be to find and retire the rules that are posing a major obstacle to people who want to get a job, start a business, move up the income ladder or do anything else that contributes to the prosperity of this nation. If elected president, I will use my executive authority to direct agencies to create one dollar of regulatory savings for each new dollar of regulatory cost they propose. We will eliminate and reform outdated and burdensome rules and, when necessary, work with Congress and the courts to overcome legal obstacles that stand in the way of sensible savings.
My administration will create a commission charged with reviewing regulations from the perspective of the regulated and shifting more power from Congress back to states. In my administration, every regulation, including those issued by so-called independent agencies such as the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, will have to satisfy a rigorous White House review process, including a cost-benefit analysis. Regulations will be issued only if they address a major market or policy failure. Regulators will be directed to favor private and state-driven solutions unless it is clear that federal intervention is necessary and appropriate.
My administration will also supercharge infrastructure projects by restructuring the permitting process for roads, highways, bridges, ports, pipelines, wind farms and other vital infrastructure projects. Permitting decisions will be made within two years instead of 10. And I will sign legislation to prevent frivolous litigation from endlessly tying up federal infrastructure projects in court.
As early as possible, I promise to roll back many of the most reckless and damaging rules promulgated under President Obama. As president, I will repeal the Environment Protection Agency’s new rule extending federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act over millions of acres of private land, its new regulation of carbon dioxide under the Clean Power Plan, and its new and costly coal-ash standards for power plants. I will also work to repeal the so-called net-neutrality rule forced on the Federal Communications Commission by the White House and the Department of Education’s “gainful employment” rule that punishes for-profit colleges. That’s for starters.
I will also work with Congress to repeal significant portions of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial law, and we will reform the complex set of rules that perpetuate too-big-to-fail financial institutions. Later this fall, I will announce a detailed agenda to repeal and replace ObamaCare.
Regulation feeds into Washington’s revolving-door culture. Regulators spend years writing complex rules, then leave for the private sector to sell their inside knowledge to the highest bidder—usually a big, well-entrenched company. No wonder so many Americans are cynical about who Washington really works for.
Most important, as president, I will be guided by the faith that we are a nation of free men and women who are capable of achieving far more than liberals and regulators believe possible. Once we remove the burdens of overregulation, America will once again reclaim its reputation for inventiveness, energy and boundless opportunity.
Mr. Bush, a former governor of Florida, is a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.