Three-quarters of Americans polled by Gallup say they disapprove of the way Congress handles the work of government. We also know that about 8 in 10 registered voters (79 percent) say the economy is a priority that drives their voting decisions, according to polling by the Pew Research Center. It is clear that there is a huge disconnect between the work that lawmakers do and what regular citizens want. But what can our elected representatives do to close this gap and restore trust in Congress and the nation?
They can start by applying the old advice: When you’re in a hole, stop digging. Instead, look for ways to get out of the hole, starting with realistic and achievable policy improvements that can have powerful consequences as they spread throughout the economy. To that end, the Competitive Enterprise Institute offers a new policy blueprint for change, highlighting some of the most critical issues in need of reform—such as getting inflation under control and stopping the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) from interfering. in restructuring the industry that benefits consumers.
In 2022, inflation reached the highest levels in 40 years. Rising prices erode every household budget in America and make financial security more difficult for most people, while taking away many basic consumer goods. The Federal Reserve controls monetary policy, which has a major effect on inflation, but regulators there—and at other financial regulatory agencies like the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau—are advancing entirely new policies. unrelated to their mission that pile. costs for economic activity without clear benefits. It would be a monumental achievement if Congress could ensure that regulators stay focused on their core mission. We cannot turn the economy around while agencies are sandblasting the gears of innovation and adaptation at every turn.
Another pressing problem is federal environmental permitting rules. They are an absolute quagmire, stalling new infrastructure projects for decades with serial litigation and endless reviews. That means no new gas pipelines, wind farms, or any other kind of significant energy infrastructure. Whether your goal is reliable, affordable energy or a national transition to renewable energy sources, neither can happen without Congressional approval of reform. Congress should fix this problem by codifying the Trump administration’s executive orders and regulations that streamline the federal permitting process for major projects.
Antitrust policy is another big problem. People may worry about the power wielded by big companies, but it turns out that the bureaucratic planners at the FTC are terrible at orchestrating economic activity on behalf of businesses and consumers. Last year, for example, the FTC tried to block a merger between Illumina, a DNA sequencing platform, and Grail, a company developing an early detection test for multiple types of cancer, based on hypothetical harms to competitors that do not exist. still. The merger could lead to important life-saving cancer testing breakthroughs, and an administrative law judge struck down the FTC’s efforts to stop the deal.
Expanding antitrust regulation would harm consumers and the American economy. What would actually help? Establish an agency responsible for antitrust enforcement: the Department of Justice (DOJ). Placing antitrust authority directly with the DOJ would help reduce opportunities for politically motivated investigations and ensure justice for defendants, since the DOJ must convince a federal court of the merits of a case, while the FTC acts as a prosecutor and judge through its internal judgment process. We would all be better off in 2023 if the FTC focused on preventing and prosecuting fraud. Anything else amounts to either unjustified planning or usurpation of political power.
There is no shortage of ways Congress can do better. But an effort must be made to make regulators more accountable to Congress so that we can expand economic freedom, help people gain prosperity, and gain financial security. This Congress can bring a new beginning that we all need.
Kent Lassman is president and CEO of Institute of Competitive Enterprisesa free market public policy organization based in Washington.