It’s not the government regulations, stupid

Ask congressional Republicans what’s wrong with the economy, and they’ll point to federal regulations. I don’t imagine there’s anything that can change the GOP’s mind on this.

That said, several major media outlets deserve credit for fact-checking the claim and making clear just how wrong the argument is. Recent analyses from CNN, the New York Times, the AP, the Economic Policy Institute, the Wall Street Journal, and McClatchy newspapers — relying on, among other things, BLS data, surveys from the National Federation of Independent Business, and Brookings Institution scholarship — all said the same thing: government regulations are not responsible for holding back the economy.

Over the weekend, the Washington Post‘s Jia Lynn Yang had a pretty thorough review of the evidence, and reached the right conclusion: the government regulations the right complains about just don’t have much of an impact.

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that very few layoffs are caused principally by tougher rules. Whenever a firm lays off workers, the bureau asks executives the biggest reason for the job cuts.

In 2010, 0.3 percent of the people who lost their jobs in layoffs were let go because of “government regulations/intervention.” By comparison, 25 percent were laid off because of a drop in business demand. […]

Economists who have studied the matter say that there is little evidence that regulations cause massive job loss in the economy, and that rolling them back would not lead to a boom in job creation. […]

“Based on the available literature, there’s not much evidence that EPA regulations are causing major job losses or major job gains,” said Richard Morgenstern, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan think tank Resources for the Future who worked at the EPA starting under the Reagan administration and continuing into President Bill Clinton’s first term.

GOP officials simply refuse to believe this, because their ideology tells them otherwise, but supply and demand still matter. Businesses aren’t hiring more because they need more customers, not fewer regulations. Republicans are confronted with these pesky details and respond with an agenda that undermines demand and targets regulations anyway.

Indeed, what must seem truly incomprehensible to the right is the notion that these regulations were put in place for a reason, and serve a valuable purpose: “The critique of regulations fits into a broader conservative narrative about government overreach. But it also comes after a string of disasters in recent years that were tied to government regulators falling short, including the financial crisis of 2008, the BP oil spill and the West Virginia mining accident last year.”

Conservatives will protest, but the facts are there for anyone who wants them.