By Judd Gregg - 07/08/13 09:00 AM EDT
One of the core purposes of any government, especially a democratic government, is to increase the standard of living of its citizens. This should go right along with protecting and promoting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Yet if you look at what is happening in Washington today, the opposite seems to be the case. A growing number of policies that are purportedly intended to improve social justice or protect the environment or reallocate income in the name of fairness are actually leading us toward a general reduction in the quality of life for most Americans.
The list is long and pervasive.
Start with healthcare. It is fairly obvious that as ObamaCare kicks into action, economic activity in many areas will be stalled.
Small businesses fearing the cost of the new law will not hire permanent employees but rather will use temporary workers — if they hire at all.
People who currently receive health insurance that works for them through their employer will find their employer abandoning their plans, paying a penalty and pushing them into health exchanges. There, the choices will be set not by their needs or wishes but by some bureaucrat in Washington who will determine what is good for them.
For those who wish to purchase insurance as a single plan or as a small employer, premium costs are projected to triple or worse, with the resulting loss of choice and affordability.
ObamaCare overall springs from an appropriate desire to see all Americans have health insurance. But its specifics were thought up, and are being executed, by an elite in Washington that does not believe in markets. The result for most Americans will be fewer options and higher costs. Their standard of living will suffer.
Now consider the administration’s energy policy.
In the name of cleaner air, all forms of energy produced from carbon are under attack. The result is a classic example of cutting off your nose to spite your face. The most recent, and scarcely believable, example is the decision to condition the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline on whether it adds to carbon emissions.
How absurd is this? Is there any legitimate reason to believe that Canada, if it cannot send this oil to the United States, is simply not going to produce it? Of course not. They will send it to China, and thus help the Chinese build their economy.
We are on the verge of a massive shift in energy availability in the U.S. — if we approach things the right way. We will no longer depend on foreign sources but will rather have the least expensive energy in the world of developed countries. This — if allowed to occur — will give us a huge economic advantage and will lead to a higher standard of living for the vast majority of Americans. But federal energy policy stands in the way.
Then there is the tax policy emanating from Washington. Taken in aggregate with the policies of many states and cities, the overall effect is to say the following to productive citizens: “Sixty to 70 percent of what you earn belongs to us, the people who govern, to redistribute in the way we deem appropriate. We will use it to address social and patronage needs that we, the governing class, declare essential.”
There is really no economic benefit to anyone but the governing class in these policies.
The list goes on and on. There is the massive regulatory expansion in areas like banking, which is leading to less credit being available on Main Street. The inevitable result will be fewer jobs and less economic activity.
Attempts to make our educational system more responsive and accountable are met by a federal government that always comes down on the side of Washington-based teachers unions that resist all forms of competition.
Taken singularly, these initiatives pouring out of Washington might be survivable. The economy might be able to absorb them and the inherent ingenuity of the American people might be able to overwhelm them.
But they are not coming at us individually. They are coming at us like a tidal wave, and the result is as predictable as is the fact that Washington does not even see this effect, much less have concerns about it.
For most Americans, this excess of well-intentioned government is going to cause the standard of living to go down.
Judd Gregg is a former governor and three-term senator from New Hampshire who served as chairman and ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee. He is the CEO of SIFMA, a financial industry lobbying group.