Obama's Criminalization of Business
By David Henderson
I’m visiting a friend who does due diligence for his private equity fund’s investments in various U.S. companies. As a result, he talks to businessmen every week. For many months now, he has found businessmen complaining about the Obama administration’s criminalization of various failures, many of them small, to comply with detailed regulations. What Charley Hooper and I wrote about on Forbes.com recently applies, it turns out, not just to the pharmaceutical industry but also to other industries. See this recent Associated Press story for more. On top of that, the Obama administration is producing a huge volume of new regulations, many of them not finalized. Look at this graphic on Dodd-Frank, for example. And of course, there’s Obamacare: whether you’ll be under it will depend on whether you can get a waiver and who knows who can get a waiver or by what standard waivers are granted? When people fear that their investments will be for naught because they won’t be allowed to operate, that has a chilling effect on investment. I think we are in a period like that of the mid-1930s in that sense. Robert Higgs has written about the regime uncertainty under FDR because businessmen and investors weren’t quite sure about the rules. I think the same thing is happening now.
This suggests a strategy for Republicans. Quit talking about taxes. You’ve won the tax issue and taxes are unlikely to fall further in the next ten years and, most likely, the next 30 years. Instead, talk about the Obama administration’s hostility to business. Use the kinds of stories Ronald Reagan used in his talks to employees of General Electric in the 1950s. Get your stories completely straight–well fact-checked, not casual.