By Rena Steinzor, reprinted with permission from the Center For Progressive Reform
The Economist’s February 18 edition offers a cover package of five articles on “Over-regulated America” (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). Our British friends want you to know there’s a problem here in the States that needs fixing:
A study for the Small Business Administration, a government body, found that regulations in general add $10,585 in costs per employee. It’s a wonder the jobless rate isn’t even higher than it is.
You can almost feel The Economist’s pain: the jobless rate should be a lot higher than it is, if the premise about the costs of regulations is correct. Surely if the regulatory burden were
actually 12 percent of GDP – that’s what the SBA numbers say, if you draw them out – things would be far worse than they are. Ideologically unable to consider the obvious alternative – that regulations don’t add $10,585 in costs per employee, The Economist, just, well, “wonders” aloud.
Here’s what The Economist would have found if they’d dug just a little bit: Fully 70 percent of the SBA estimate was actually based on a regression analysis using opinion polling data on perceived regulatory climate across countries (in a strange twist, a separate article in the same issue actually questions the study, briefly). Whole reports have been written on why that number is bogus.
Our economy is still recovering from a tremendous collapse largely caused by under-regulation of financial institutions. But in its group of articles, The Economist wants us to think the opposite: “The home of laissez-faire is being suffocated by excessive and badly written regulation.” That premise, in turn, leads the magazine to – you guessed it – a series of warmed-over right-wing policy ideas aimed at gutting regulations. Let’s take a closer look.