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Regulatory Dump Truck

The White House is expected to drop like a flaming cactus into the lap of businesses more than 3,400 rules in the dead of night before Thanksgiving. This marks the fifth time the Obama Administration has dumped its federal Unified Agenda -- its regulatory road map -- in the vacuum of a news hole when everyone is heading home for a holiday.

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But rule makers abhor a vacuum, which is why the neurotic urge to meddle by micro regulating continues. The federal government’s motto: "If it's not broken, fix it until it is" still paramount. If rulemaking was the way to Nirvana, we’d already be in the Promised Land.

There is no downside for overzealous bureaucrats in this administration, or from the Democrats in Congress, always in a permanent state of outrage. Elected officials and unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats who sit around thinking big thoughts while making big errors and ignoring who exactly has to enforce their rules.

For example, does anyone wonder why IRS workers can’t correctly answer taxpayer phone calls nearly half the time, given the compulsive fiddling by lawmakers of the rules they must enforce? IRS workers simply don’t answer anywhere from a fifth to a third of the taxpayer calls that come in at any given time. All of this is stress-testing our patience and the Administration’s credibility.

The dump truck of rules comes amid a series of breathtakingly tedious revelations from former Labor Dept. secretary Robert Reich who, in another round of empty calorie criticisms, offers this amuse-bouche, that businesses don’t create jobs, middle class taxpayers do.

Pretzel-knot logic that, wait for it, consumer purchasing power is the true trickle-down power. If so, then there’s no need to hector footloose multinationals pulling anchor to plunk headquarters down overseas due to aggressively high taxes, and there’s no need for the government to dole out tax breaks to companies.

It’s an intrusion on the national consciousness that begins the minute Reich puts his shoes on in the morning. But one Reich and his coterie make heavy weather of, the latest variation on the “you didn’t build that” crack which even the most vitiated progressive has to find annoying.

Yes, everyone gets it that the middle class needs jobs. But why not start from the beginning—how are those jobs created, what can hang up job growth?

Gone AWOL in Reich’s harangue is the fact that the administration has received what it wanted, a trickle-down government that got its stimulus and an overall $7 trillion in extra spending, the deficit now at $17 trillion from a $10 trillion level when the president took office in 2008.

Gone missing in Reich’s blast-off is the fact that both federal and state governments are choking businesses with regulations—business owners spend a good fifth of their day dealing with one government official or another.

Gone missing is the explosive growth in the tax and regulatory state that acts like an X-ray blanket on U.S. growth. The U.S. is still facing its worst post-war recovery in modern history, with two million fewer full-time jobs than there were in 2007 and an expansion of part-time work.

Gone missing in Reich’s talk is the fact that federal income tax collections are at a record level, $3.3 trillion, the top fifth of taxpayers responsible for nearly 70% of all federal tax revenues, though they pay exponentially more in taxes versus the lower to middle quintiles, who often pay zero, reports the Congressional Budget Office. The CBO also says that the bottom 60% of earners get more in government benefits than they pay in taxes. Meanwhile, the federal government spent more than $156 million during fiscal year 2012 on federal employees working on union activities, instead of their actual government job, says the Government Accountability Office. But forget the facts, the electronic pitchforks of the hard left are bristling, demanding the government take and give out more.

It’s the rules concocted by unelected bureaucrats squirreling away in secret that are troubling. A regulation nation built in secret whose costs nearly equal the economy of France, according to data compiled by the Competitive Enterprise Institute.  As GDP growth continues to struggle to stay above 2%, worth remembering is the main intent of thermodynamics: All things run down, or as former economist Herb Stein said, if it must stop, it will.

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