McCain’s ‘billions and billions’ (non-Sagan version)

Some congressional Republicans are working on a new “jobs bill” of their own, which we’ll explore in more detail in the morning. In the meantime, it’s worth noting that one of the leaders of this effort is Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who pushed his message on regulations during a Fox News interview this morning.

“We have a plan and we’ll have almost all of the Republican Senators behind it. And if [President Obama] wants to bring up a piece of his proposed plan, we’ll bring up a piece of ours.

“We’d love to see, for example, a vote in the United States Senate on a moratorium on Federal regulations, which are coming out by the thousands, costing businesses billions and billions of jobs. We’d love to see a vote on that.”

Hmm. The population of the United States is 312 million people, including children and seniors who aren’t in the workforce. Regulations are responsible for crushing “billions and billions” or jobs? Somehow, I doubt that.

Regardless, as Greg Sargent noted, McCain’s “overarching claim has already been thoroughly debunked.” Quite right. Republicans have been pushing this message relentlessly, but frankly, they’re shamelessly lying.

There’s been a fair amount of work done lately to help demonstrate just how wrong Republicans are about regulations holding the economy back — this paper from the Economic Policy Institute’s Lawrence Mishel is terrific — but folks should definitely take the time to review this piece from Bruce Bartlett.

As Bartlett, an economist and a veteran of the Reagan and H.W. Bush administrations, explained, Republicans have been told to argue that freeing the private sector of consumer safeguards and worker protections will reduce “uncertainty.” Unfortunately for the GOP, from a policy perspective, they’re living in fantasy land.

Evidence supporting Mr. Cantor’s contention that deregulation would increase unemployment is very weak. For some years, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has had a program that tracks mass layoffs. In 2007, the program was expanded, and businesses were asked their reasons for laying off workers. Among the reasons offered was “government regulations/intervention.” There is only partial data for 2007, but we have data since then through the second quarter of this year. […]

As one can see, the number of layoffs nationwide caused by government regulation is minuscule and shows no evidence of getting worse during the Obama administration. Lack of demand for business products and services is vastly more important.

These results are supported by surveys. During June and July, Small Business Majority asked 1,257 small-business owners to name the two biggest problems they face. Only 13 percent listed government regulation as one of them. Almost half said their biggest problem was uncertainty about the future course of the economy — another way of saying a lack of customers and sales.

Surveys from major news outlets, including conservative institutions like the Wall Street Journal, and the National Federation of Independent Business found the same thing: the private sector is concerned about customers and demand, not regulations.

Bruce concluded, “In my opinion, regulatory uncertainty is a canard invented by Republicans that allows them to use current economic problems to pursue an agenda supported by the business community year in and year out. In other words, it is a simple case of political opportunism, not a serious effort to deal with high unemployment.”

An Associated Press analysis published this week reached the identical conclusion: the private sector isn’t being held back by regulations; companies “aren’t hiring because there isn’t enough consumer demand.” Republican economic policies, of course, intend to weaken demand, on purpose, because they simply don’t believe this is the problem behind weak growth.

John McCain admitted a few years ago that he “doesn’t really understand economics.” That’s obviously true. With this in mind, why in the world would Senate Republicans ask him to put together a jobs plan and go on television to talk about it?