From the perspective of our nation’s capital, the economic picture looks bright. Washington, D.C., has become a beacon of thriving economic growth under President Obama, home to the nation’s most powerful and affluent, a boomtown financed by the American taxpayer.
Perhaps it is difficult to understand, in such an environment, why so many pollsters find that the top priority for the American people is the economy, jobs, and unemployment. This is because across the United States, the economic picture is very different. As those who govern closer to the American people, governors know the challenges being faced every day across the country in an economy struggling to recover, where the costs of health care and higher education are soaring, and where millions of citizens have given up hope of finding work.
In recent weeks, President Obama and his allies have emphasized his willingness to go it alone and use his executive power to achieve his policy aims. This White House has never been shy about wielding such power, but now the president apparently intends to escalate the use of the phone and the pen to make his agenda a reality.
If the president intends to go this route, we governors strongly urge him to take the opportunity to reconsider his current policy approaches. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the administration’s own actions have in recent weeks confirmed what most of us in the rest of the country already knew: President Obama’s agenda creates disincentives for Americans to work, incentivizes employers to hire fewer people, and exacerbates the inequality the White House denounces.
According to the CBO, Obamacare will cause millions of Americans to work less or leave the workforce altogether. The president’s favored policy of a minimum-wage hike will cost half a million jobs, leaving more Americans earning zero dollars an hour. And the White House’s own actions, in yet another delay of dubious legality, to push the implementation of the employer mandate past the 2014 elections are a sign that employers are responding to Obamacare’s mandates exactly as critics have contended: by cutting back on workers and hours.
The American people deserve a better economic-growth agenda from Washington. And if President Obama wants to give them one, he can. With the power of the pen and the phone, he can roll back policies which are creating barriers for innovation, implement policies which encourage investment, and build toward the future with reforms that will help prepare Americans for the challenge of tomorrow’s economy.
Here are ten policy steps President Obama can take today, all by himself, that will help jump-start the American economy:
1. Approve the Keystone Pipeline, creating thousands of jobs, affordable energy options, and reduced dependence on hostile foreign regimes.
2. Open up federal lands for assessment and exploration for energy, and implement a balanced approach to energy exportation by expediting export-license applications and export-terminal construction permitting.
3. Direct the IRS to eliminate any program that targets individuals, small businesses, or nonprofits based on their political beliefs.
4. Rein in the EPA: Scrap proposed new rules regarding greenhouse gases, which effectively bar the construction of new coal-fired power plants, and eliminate the new “cost of carbon” rule.
5. Institute common-sense regulatory budgets for each agency, which require agencies to roll back costly regulations before instituting new ones, along the lines of the One In, Two Out Act introduced in the U.S. House.
6. Reverse the executive order urging the use of project labor agreements on major federal construction projects. These project labor agreements discriminate against non-union contractors and increase costs of construction.
7. Order the Department of Education to open up the accreditation process for our higher-education system, allowing expanded accreditation from states and encouraging innovative institutions and models along the lines of reforms proposed by Sen. Mike Lee.
8. Shelve the “gainful employment” rule for schools, providing access to higher-ed opportunities for non-traditional students, such as those who decide to pursue professional training instead of a four-year degree.
9. Encourage upward mobility in the next generation: Allow Race to the Top funds to be used for school-choice voucher programs, opening up additional opportunities for low-income and minority children currently trapped in failing schools, and stop suing states over encouraging educational freedom.
10. Delay all of Obamacare’s mandates for a year, unconditionally — and grant states the flexibility they need to reform their health-care systems, through programs such as the Healthy Indiana Plan and other consumer-oriented options, without tying them to the law’s costly Medicaid expansion.
Washington has evolved into the center of political and financial power in the nation on President Obama’s watch. As conservatives, we have our misgivings about this centralized authority, particularly in a climate where the constitutional enumerations of the limits of government power are viewed with such apparent disdain. “The essence of Government is power,” James Madison said, “and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse.” And we would do well to remember it.
So if President Obama is determined to use his executive power to the fullest, we ask at least that he use the power of the phone and pen to free the American people from the yoke of excess regulation, to open up new avenues for investment and education, and to give the economy the jump start it needs. This president has used his phone and pen thus far to drastically increase our national debt. But he has it in his power to use the phone and the pen for good. And America will thank him for it.
— Bobby Jindal is governor of Louisiana and vice chairman of the Republican Governors Association. This piece originally appeared at National Review.