Question: What do Hong Kong, Singapore, Chile, Ireland and Estonia have in common?
Answer: They all have more economic freedom than the United States.
According to the 2016 edition of the Index of Economic Freedom — compiled annually by the Wall Street Journal and The Heritage Foundation — America has matched its lowest global ranking ever at #11, its seventh decline in the past eight years. Measuring such factors as rule of law, regulatory efficiency, limited government, and open markets, they conclude, “The United States remains mired in the ranks of the ‘mostly free,’ the second-tier economic freedom status into which it dropped in 2010.”
Certainly one of the primary culprits in this dynamic is the blizzard of regulations imposed under Obama. As reported by Sam Batkins of the American Action Forum (AAF), the Obama presidency has implemented 600 major regulations—defined as regulations that have “an economic impact of $100 million or more”—and is on track to enact 641 major regulations before he leaves office. This figure shatters the 426 regulations under President George Bush and represents a new major regulation every three days—according to Batkins costing, “on average, $1.4 billion . . . With the possibility of 50 more rules, the lame duck tally could push this regulatory cost figure to $813 billion . . . more than the GDP of the Philippines.”
Faced with these and other findings, Obama remains obdurate and combative—offering kingly declarations in response: “By almost every measure, we are better off than when I took office” and “Anyone claiming that America's economy is in decline is peddling fiction.” These assertions fly in the face of the numerous non-fictions he simply refuses to acknowledge: a labor participation rate near a 40-year low (including a record number of women); his single-handed accumulation of more debt (at $19.5 trillion and counting) than every other president before him combined;46 million Americans living in poverty and nearly 50 million on food stamps; his presidency overseeing a record number of home foreclosures; as well as America’s credit rating downgraded for the first time ever . . . the litany goes on. Is it any wonder that trust in Obama’s leadership and his administration remains at historically low levels? After almost eight years of government corruption, ever-expanding spending and taxation, bloating of the administrative state, and governance repeatedly highlighting racial, social and religious divisions, the once unassailable belief in America as the freest, strongest, noblest, most prosperous nation in history has been supplanted by a vision of ourselves that we do not recognize and from which we may never recover.
Obama’s insistence on government being increasingly involved in the country’s private sector’s economic decision-making has inevitably given rise to more and more lobbyists, more special interest groups, more political influence, and more crony capitalism—which makes a mockery of his pledge to create an “unprecedented level of openness” and his claim that his administration has been “the most transparent administration in history.” His proof? Every visitor who comes to the White House is now a part of the public record.
Given Obama’s lineage, his mentors and political influences, his controversial friends and associations, his background as a community organizer and neighborhood economic developer, should we be surprised that he is a man who knows only how to slice up the pie, rather than grow the pie? It is who he is. It’s in his DNA. He can’t help himself.
Is it only a matter of time before America slides down to the next lower level of the economic freedom index and joins the ranks with Poland, Barbados, Albania, Rwanda, Namibia, Guatemala, Italy, Slovenia, and others—as “moderately free”?
La Valle is freelance writer in New York.
The views expressed by Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.