I know we are still in the season of Easter but this is not an Easter story. By now you’ve heard the news report of EPA Region 6 Administrator Al Armendariz’ remarks at a local Texas government officials meeting in 2010 where he used a crude analogy to describe his “philosophy of enforcement.”
“It was kind of like how the Romans used to conquer villages in the Mediterranean. They’d go in to a little Turkish town somewhere, they’d find the first five guys they saw, and they’d crucify them. And then, you know, that town was really easy to manage for the next few years. You make examples out of people who are in this case not complying with the law … and you hit them as hard as you can” — to act as a “deterrent” to others.”
Apologies have dutifully now been issued disclaiming these remarks and called them out as not reflecting the Administration’s policy on enforcement. But the reason the video clip went viral is that it rings so true of what many have come to believe is, in fact, the Administration’s policy.
This comes on the heels of a unanimous Supreme Court Decision in Sackett v US EPA where the Court overturned an enforcement order of the EPA which sought to fine a couple thousands per day in civil penalties for the temerity of challenging an EPA decision that building a house on their own property was a violation of the Government’s wetlands policy. The decision overturned longstanding precedent that enforcement orders must be challenged administratively before an action is taken to court.
The Regulatory Process is Not Serving the Public Interest
These examples are easy to focus on, but the bigger issue is the pervasive, creeping and creepy over reach of regulation that once just strangled the economy but now is being used to pursue a political agenda the Administration has been unable to get approved by the Congress.
There is a de facto war on fossil fuels being pursued by the EPA. The rush of new regulations is focused on getting as much done in the first term as possible administratively, perhaps out of fear there may not be a second terms or that the Democrats will lose the Senate.
Congress is also to blame big time for this mess. It writes laws that are vague or ill-considered and leaves it up to bureaucrats to define the details and sort out the problems. The Code of Federal Regulations now consists of thousands of pages of rules bearing only a vague resemblance to their authorizing legislation.
We can do better than this:
- Require that rules must either be incorporated directly into legislation or proposed as a companion rulemaking by affected parties BEFORE Congress passes the law. Force the parties to work out their differences before the law is passed and embody the rules in the law.
- Require that EVERY regulation contain a sunset date of not more than 7 years. The law and every rule adopted pursuant to it should expire unless it is reauthorized by Congress. This requirement would be applicable to EVERY existing rule which should be subject to sunset review.
- Require that NO rule may be proposed without a cost benefit analysis based upon standard objective criteria applicable to all regulation for calculating cost and benefits. No rule may be published if the results of the cost benefit analysis show that the costs outweigh the benefits. The cost benefit study may be challenged as not meeting the standard objective criteria before an Administrative Law Judge to decide whether the rule meets the cost benefit test.
- Require that Congress much approve EVERY regulation imposing a cost of more than $100 million on an up or down vote to be taken within 90 days of submittal of the rule to Congress or else it is automatically rejected.
These steps would clarify that regulations are designed to cost effectively and fairly implement specific policies adopted by Congress. It clarifies that rules are not a separate process for pursuing political agendas. It levels the playing field giving business an equal opportunity in the rule making, enforcement and sunset review process with other interest groups. It forces ALL SPECIAL INTERESTS to work out their differences BEFORE laws are passed and rules proposed or have those interests framed to be decided in an up or down vote for all to see.
- Red Tape and Regulation Strangulation (insightadvisor.wordpress.com)
- How to Escape from our Regulatory Winter (insightadvisor.wordpress.com)
- Between FERC and a Hard Place (insightadvisor.wordpress.com)
- U.S. environmental official apologises for ‘crucify’ gaffe (rawstory.com)
- E.P.A. Official Spoke of ‘Crucifying’ Polluters (green.blogs.nytimes.com)
- ‘Crucify’ Slip ‘Revealing’ Of Obama Energy Policy? (foxnews.com)
- The EPA as a Roman Soldier:Crucify the O&G Companies!..and FIRE Dr. Al Armendariz (thefracdog.com)
- EPA Official Apologizes For “Crucify” Remark (dfw.cbslocal.com)
- EPA Official’s ‘Philosophy’ On Oil Companies: ‘Crucify Them’ Just As Romans Crucified Conquered Citizens (Videos) (thedaleygator.wordpress.com)
Thomas Friedman wrote a very interesting op-ed piece in the New York Times recently entitled “Superbroke, Superfrugal, Superpower?” He hit on all my hot buttons about the profound consequences of America’s diminishing competitiveness in the world and why we must turn that around fast. He talked about the role of America as the world’s sole superpower and why there is no logical replacement for us on the world stage today. He talked about the need to set priorities and make choices that live into our values.
That really is what this election year is all about isn’t it? Setting priorities and making choices about what we want our country to be like for our children. The economy suks and so does our attitude about how it’s going. But this testing of our values and resolve may prove to be just what we needed to wake up to the slow slide we have been on for some time.
This is not a commentary on either the Democrats in power today or the Republicans who were and may be again. We had grown complacent. We bought into a globalization theme that has sapped our strategic strengths and we spent too much time apologizing for America’s successes. We fought wars no one else would fight and we saved—or tried to save—countries that the world might have been better off without.
But something happened to us as a result of this great recession. We woke up! Sat up and said wait a minute, we don’t like what is happening to America. This is not about blaming someone for the problem—it is about fixing it.
That’s where we are now and all of our politicians are rightfully running scared because we want change WE can believe in. And that does not mean going backward either. It means we are ready for a fresh start and are in the midst of defining what that requires and who best to lead us back to competitive advantage. The TEA party movement is the political equivalent of an IED unleashing America’s pent up anger and frustration wreaking havoc when it goes off but causing us to play smarter defense and then take offensive action to deal with our real problems.
Thomas Jefferson would love this volatility and “little bit of rebellion” alive in America today. He saw the ability of the people to shout “Wait a Minute” as the singular best feature of the system of checks and balances embodied in the Constitution.
If what we want as Americans is to ‘get our groove back’ economically, politically, globally we need more than income redistribution through stimulus spending we have today or the Republican alternative of redistribution of essentially shifting America’s economic engine overseas through complex financial transactions and tax manipulation that make Wall Street rich but create little value except in the “flip and churn” of transactions.
This is the Thomas Jefferson rebellion our political class on both sides of the aisles fears. It is that we are coming to take back America seeing its promise as more than the sum of its debts. We are ready for change, but we want it our way this time.
Principles of an Insurgent Recovery
- STOP SPENDING MONEY WE DO NOT HAVE. Calls for additional stimulus spending are landing with a thud because the previous rounds have not produced a satisfying effect. The uncertainty created by the impact of rising spending and deficits has business sitting on its cash and biding time instead of investing, hiring and growing the economy faster.
- SHOW ME THE ROADMAP. Business wants to see where the economy is going and what the government will do—and how much it will cost. When that is known they can decide whether to invest in America or not. What everyone wants is certainty in uncertain times. Not everything can be fixed quickly, we know. But we want as few surprises as possible and we need to know the Government has adult supervision.
- GET OUT OF MY WAY SO I CAN GROW MY BUSINESS. The cumulative costs of ObamaCare, higher tax rates, regulatory costs in finance, energy, environment, health, state taxes to cover deficits and the fear of looming inflation are job killers. The best way to restore confidence is to create an economic and political foundation that encourages economic growth—that rising tide lifts all boats.
How to Get from Here to There
This is the hard part isn’t it? And the added problem is we mistrust both parties with majorities because they tend to revert to their worst instead of looking out for our best interests. So my formula for getting our groove back includes the following:
- VOTERS TO POLITICIANS: A POX ON BOTH PARTIES. WORK TOGETHER OR ELSE! We should elect as many non-incumbents who seem reasonable not ideological as we can this November. Congress needs more Main street people and fewer professional politicians. Throw out the leadership of both parties and start over. Elect a Republican majority in the House but with many insurgent TEA party members to give the old guard fits. Retain Democrat control of the Senate but not 60 votes so they must compromise. The President is entitled to propose his agenda but majority control of both houses by either party just leads to too many opportunities for bad behavior when we want checks and balances to require both parties to work together or face our wrath in 2012.
- VOTERS POLICY ROADMAP FOR WASHINGTON: GET IT DONE OR ELSE! Here is what we want a bipartisan effort to deliver for us by the 2012 election:
WE WANT A FAIR, FLAT TAX SYSTEM. We want it simple, easy to understand, no loopholes, few deductions and no need for an army of accountants and lawyers. We want everyone to pay something. No alternative minimum tax, no double taxation, low capital gains tax, and corporate rates lower than competing countries. The goal is to turn America into an investment magnet for the world to jumpstart investment, entrepreneurship and job creation.
ROLL FEDERAL SPENDING LEVELS BACK TO 2008. Un-appropriate all unspent stimulus money using it to reduce the deficit. Stop spending money we don’t have and reset the budget base to pre-stimulus levels across the board—and we mean it! Force a zero-based competition for available new spending and a public vote on the ranking of priorities. Ban all earmarks. Give the President line item veto authority or impounding authority to manage spending to revenue. We want this done before the 2012 election.
FIX ENTITLEMENT SPENDING. Repeal ObamaCare entirely and substitute reforms aimed at introducing interstate competition into healthcare and lowering costs by the 2012 election. Make individual healthcare premiums tax deductible just as group plan premiums to create a level playing field for coverage. Means test other entitlements so the resources are spent on those most in need and put other cost savings or reform ideas on the table by 2012 election to be decided after that election for long term reforms.
When we get these things back on track we’ll focus on our global leadership role during the 2012 election. Listen up Congress, what part of get this done don’t you understand?
There ends the rant. Damn, that felt good.