The Red Tape Reduction and Small Business Job Creation Act is up for consideration today, and before it's even voted on, Republican Matt Doheny wants you to know: He supports it.
"Our economy is at a standstill and we have seen nothing but empty promises from my opponent that things will get better," Mr. Doheny said in a news release of his opponent, Rep. Bill Owens, D-Plattsburgh. "They haven't and the job-killing regulations have only gotten more out-of-hand under his watch."
Update: The Owens camp responds: "Why does Doheny have a position on this regulation bill but not the farm bill?" says campaign manager James Hannaway in an email.
And now, back to our regularly scheduled blog post.
But have regulations actually gotten "out-of-hand"?
According to Bloomberg News, President Obama has promulgated fewer regulations than President George W. Bush. The regulations cost less than those during the administration of President George H.W. Bush.
The Heritage Foundation, however, came to a different conclusion in a report entitled "Red Tape Rising".
Mr. Doheny points specifically to President Obama's health-care overhaul. Whatever the merits of the bill, more regulations were the point: Insurers can't kick patients off plans for having preexisting conditions, for example, was fleshed out by a... government regulation.
That's the thing about government regulations. We only seem to notice them when they're getting in our way. Brian Mann at North Country Public Radio has also pontificated on the subject of government regulations, which you can read here.
On the flip side, however, it's easy to understand the frustration of small business owners who are dealing with government regulations. When I was in Ogdensburg, i did a story on a guy who was trying to open a Mexican restaurant. He had to jump through one hoop after another — all to ensure food safety, for what that's worth.
The debate over regulations can seem esoteric, but it strikes at the heart of the constant push-and-pull of how we envision the role of government. Regulations aren't all bad, and some liberal commentators have suggested that banning significant regulations until unemployment is below 6 percent (with exceptions to drive a heavily-regulated truck through) is "very dangerous."
A brief Twitter skirmish encapsulated the debate. Josh Schwerin, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, asked Mr. Doheny whether the government "should be able to regulate workplace safety."
Mr. Doheny shot back with a question about whether Mr. Owens should vote against it. I don't know how Mr. Owens will vote, but I'm sure he'll point out that he's taken plenty of anti-regulatory stances (regulations on the definition of milk spills, regulations on child labor at farms) himself.