The U.S. economy has stopped growing. Prices are up. Job creation is slowing. The value of wages is declining.
Yet, instead of looking for ways to stimulate economic growth, Washington policymakers are pushing tax hikes and spending that will drag things down even further.
What’s happened in the energy sector is a perfect example of how the Biden administration has made things worse.
The president’s drive to power the economy with renewables has ravaged the energy sector. The right way to ease the fuel crisis is to incentivize domestic producers to produce more oil and natural gas. Instead, he went hat in hand to the Saudis to beg them to pump more oil while releasing a million barrels a day from America’s critical petroleum reserves that should only be used in times of national emergency like war and natural disasters.
These bad policy moves that have handcuffed U.S. producers through regulatory means are not an anomaly. The entire economy is imperiled by attempts by the veritable alphabet soup of federal rule-making agencies to force corporate leaders to adopt politically progressive ideas even as they threaten the interests of shareholders and consumers.
The Federal Trade Commission, one of the government’s most powerful regulatory bodies, is especially guilty of this. Supposedly independent of the executive branch, under the leadership of its Biden-appointed chairman, Lina Khan, it is now trying to use power it may not have to regulate some of America’s biggest companies.
Khan is a radical anti-free marketeer whose attitudes and actions are informed by no practical, real-world business experience, as documented by a recent report produced by the Committee to Unleash Prosperity.
She’s an academic and an ideologue who thinks big business is bad and needs the input of Washington-based ivory tower experts to decide what it can and cannot do. She’s bringing central planning back from the storage locker at the Harvard University School of Business where it’s been kept since the late 1980s.
That runs headlong into the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in West Virginia vs. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in which the court reined in the ability of federal agencies to make policies and expand their purview without specific congressional authorization. Hopefully, that will keep Khan coloring within the lines, at least for a while.
Even without that decision, though, the FTC’s power has been reined in significantly over the last few years. An April 2021 high court unanimous ruling barred the commission from continuing to impose large fines on companies when adjudicating regulatory matters. Going forward, the justices will have two more chances to address the fundamental unfairness of the administrative trial procedures regulatory agencies like the FTC commonly employ.
The constitutional guarantee of due process as it’s understood in criminal courts doesn’t hold in the same way when you’re before an administrative law judge overseeing a regulatory matter. Their approach is much more one-sided, with the agency put in the position to serve as prosecutor, judge and jury. That is unfair even to those accused of the worst violations of agency regulations.
It’s no wonder the FTC’s rate of success for cases it has brought over the last 25 years approaches 100 percent, even when the initial decision came down in the defendant’s favor.
It’s doubtful the agency will change course on its own. Despite West Virginia vs. EPA, Khan is likely to continue to look for ways to expand the FTC’s areas of influence. If that happens, the efforts to strip away its statutory authority will continue and probably be successful.
Rather than battle it out in court, with taxpayers paying the price, Congress should take the lead to ensure it can only intervene in cases where the consumer welfare standard can be legitimately shown to have been violated.
Needless new regulations punishing companies that have a bottom line enforced by a bureaucrat who has never worked in the real world will not restart the engine of economic growth but probably will prolong the recession.
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