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It’s time to reassess

By Staff | Apr 15, 2011

Some people on the left end of the political spectrum see government as the optimal choice to handle just about every important human venture. What few things are ceded to the private sector, they would subject to extensive government policing. Conversely, there are ideologues on the political right who fail to see a role for government in just about anything. They would trust virtually unfettered market forces to protect the public against harm.

Most Americans take a middle view. They recognize that some functions important in a modern civilization are really only feasible when performed by governmental bodies. They also expect government to create and operate efficient mechanisms that prevent the public from being harmed or exploited by those in the private sector.

Much of the political debate in 21st-century America is about just how much government activity makes sense. Of particular concern just now is whether existing and proposed programs and regulations help or hinder economic growth.

Here in Iowa, Gov. Terry Branstad has made a reassessment of existing state activities and regulations a key part of his game plan. Making certain that government is not inhibiting job creation is the goal.

At the national level, Republicans in Congress are undertaking a review of federal regulations. U.S. Rep. Tom Latham, a Republican who represents Iowa’s 4th Congressional District, explained in a recent report to his constituents why he sees this initiative to be absolutely vital.

“Too often, the federal government does not take the steps necessary to distinguish good regulations from those that no longer serve a useful purpose or maybe never did,” Latham wrote. “This can result in regulations that slow and block job growth and obstruct personal freedom.”

Latham argues that the federal regulatory juggernaut has a tendency to proliferate with far too little scrutiny by members of Congress.

“These rules pile up year after year, and, although some are modified, they are rarely eliminated,” Latham said. “In fact, there are so many active federal regulations that if you were to read through all of them for eight hours every day, it would take over four years to read them all. This massive collection of regulations has a real impact on the American people, but Congress hasn’t engaged in a large-scale and systematic review of all government regulations in decades.”

Latham strongly advocates a thorough review of how the ever-growing bureaucratic maze is affecting the U.S. economy. He says there is substantial anecdotal evidence that regulatory overload significantly inhibits the creation and growth of small businesses. That is particularly alarming. The success of these enterprises is an important factor in job creation and economic growth.

“Regulation serves an important function in a free market economy, but we have to make sure that our regulatory regime isn’t strangling job growth and personal freedom,” Latham said. “With thousands of new regulations being approved by the executive agencies every year, it’s too easy to lose sight of which regulations are effective and which ones aren’t.”

Enhanced oversight is precisely on target. The efforts both in Des Moines and Washington, D.C., to ensure that wrongheaded programs and regulations are halted or revised deserve strong support. Farm News applauds Branstad and Latham for helping lead these important initiatives.

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