After two consecutive quarters well above 3 percent growth, it certainly appears the economy got a boost from the just-enacted tax cut bill, contrary to a litany of naysayers. It’s even fair to say the economy had baked in the prospect of tax cuts before they passed. But there’s another underreported reason that economic growth was improving before the tax bill.
As I wrote on these pages back in 2016, economic growth was dependent on Congress and a new administration tackling an overwhelming regulatory burden that was stifling business investment.
The previous administration had been on a regulatory binge, imposing some 600 "major" rules — those with a significant economic cost or impact — at an average of one every five days. By the end of 2016, there were 97,000 pages in the Federal Register and the compliance burden was costing Americans $15,000 per household.
Even after the election on Nov. 9, 2016, the Obama administration released another 145 regulations, costing more than $16 billion.
That’s why in the first 100 days of the 115th Congress we passed, and the president signed, a record 14 Congressional Review Act resolutions successfully overturning costly federal mandates, saving at least $3.7 billion and 4.2 million hours filling out federal paperwork.
To illustrate how bold this is, prior to the current Congress, exactly one CRA had been utilized to review and repeal costly lame duck edicts.
I also believe this kind of congressional scrutiny should be applied to so-called "guidance documents," and that’s why I introduced H.R. 462, the REG Act. These documents are only meant to clarify regulations, but agencies have been using them to dodge formal regulatory processes and avoid public input and oversight. My bill ensures that significant guidance documents from federal agencies are subject to both congressional review and public comment.
Of course, one of the most important regulations to be scaled back was the sweeping Waters of the United States rule, finalized by the Obama administration in 2015. Under the onerous mandate, even the smallest of streams, farm ditches, and creek beds would fall under the Clean Water Act and be micromanaged by federal bureaucrats — directly contrary to the Supreme Court’s reasoning in the Rapanos decision.
And just as crucial to Minnesota’s second district — which is home to the state’s largest refinery, providing good jobs and nearly all of Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport’s aviation fuel needs — was the reversal of the so-called Clean Power Plan. The energy costs of the plan, according to a recent study by NERA Economic Consulting, would likely be more than $40 billion annually.
All of these actions have had a profound positive impact on economic growth, but just as important, they have properly reasserted constitutional control over lawmaking, bringing it back into the hands of members of Congress who are accountable to their constituents — just where this power belongs under Article I.
The House has been the most proactive in this laudable endeavor, passing the Midnight Rules Relief Act, Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act, and the Regulatory Accountability Act. We also passed the Financial CHOICE Act to repeal and replace Dodd-Frank’s massive compliance costs, which have stifled small bank and credit union lending all while offering taxpayer-backed "too big to fail" guarantees to larger institutions.
Quite honestly, far too much good legislation like this remains bottled up in the Senate.
But I’m happy to say both chambers worked extremely hard to pass the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, where once again another expensive Washington mandate was removed — this time the Obamacare rule requiring individuals to purchase healthcare plans they simply could not afford.
On top of that is the other good news coming from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. In its wake, more than a million Americans have already received bonuses from major employers such as AT&T and Southwest Airlines.
When we make the economy more competitive, whether through cutting taxes or removing regulatory obstacles, families and consumers win.
Whether we’re talking about overbearing regulations or taxes, let’s remember we’re not talking about just property rights — we’re talking about personal rights. Indeed, a “fundamental interdependence exists between the personal right to liberty and the personal right to property,” as Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously said.
As we move into the New Year, it’s vital we keep the momentum going by continuing to keep big, intrusive, and unproductive government out of your way.
Rep. Jason Lewis, R-Minn., represents Minnesota’s second congressional district in the House of Representatives. He serves on the House Budget Committee.