A Bad Week for Business, Thanks to Regulators

by Douglas Holtz-Eakin

This has been a bad week for business, thanks to the Obama administration — and it’s only Wednesday. When President Obama rolls out his job-creation plan next week, we should evaluate his lofty rhetoric in the context of what his administration has actually accomplished.

The week started off on a bad note when the National Labor Relations Board decided all of a sudden that employers should be forced to advertise for unions. Did Congress secretly pass a law mandating the change? Of course not — it just seemed like a good idea for the administration to please union leaders in the run-up to next November. 

Today, the Department of Justice announced that it will attempt to block AT&T’s proposed merger with T-Mobile. Markets, responding to a rash of economic news and DOJ action, fell across the board. Not surprisingly, AT&T was the biggest loser, shedding 4.6 percent and dragging the S&P index down with it. To some, the DOJ’s move will resurrect memories of the Clinton administration’s attack on Microsoft, a company that still hasn’t fully recovered from its generation-long fight with regulators. Google, like AT&T, is also in the crosshairs of bureaucrats. For companies looking to expand and hire, the DOJ has served notice that success can bring ample demands from the government.

No word on how any jobs will be created by the NLRB’s move or the DOJ’s action to block the proposed merger.

In the end, the president loves to tout his “historic” efforts on regulatory reform and job creation. He’ll even call together a joint session of Congress to speak about economic growth. When he’s not speaking, however, he’s busy blocking mergers, pleasing unions, and imposing at least $109 billion in new regulatory burdens (according to his recent letter to Speaker Boehner). The fact is, when given the choice, the president almost always sides against pro-growth policies.

This week’s measures might please ideological purists within the president’s party, but they won’t create jobs and they won’t translate into the broader economic growth he so desperately needs for his reelection bid.

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