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Blankenship: America’s Reg-cession Hampers Economic Growth

Nearly 2 feet of snow brought the nation’s capital to a halt in early February, leaving tourists stranded, commuters immobilized and entire neighborhoods entombed for days. But no subzero temperatures compare to the freeze Washington, D.C., is putting on the nation’s economy. A blizzard of Obama administration regulations has iced opportunities for economic growth, burying prospects for new jobs under an avalanche of mandates.

[IMGCAP(1)]The United States is no longer in a recession. We are now in a reg-cession. Overzealous federal regulations endanger American jobs. Any hope of full employment within a decade is ruined by unnecessary, time-consuming and costly regulations. They reach into every nook and cranny of our economy. I would bet more jobs will be destroyed by regulation than created by the billions of dollars of wasteful stimulus — even if the Obama administration continues to spend $135,295 for every “green” job.

This Soviet-style approach to the U.S. economy is no surprise. Fewer than 10 percent of the president’s Cabinet members have experience in the private sector. Regulators who have never had the responsibility of meeting payroll define success by the number of pages in the Federal Register, not the number of people employed in nongovernment jobs. So as the Obama administration continues to appoint liberal activists, expect a barrage of additional employer, environmental and health care regulations.

The good news is the public knows where the real problems are — big government and an over-reaching Congress. A January Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found a majority of Americans — 53 percent — disapproves of the federal government’s role in the economy, and a plurality say Washington is doing too many things better left to business.

Yet neither the costs of regulation nor the public’s disenchantment with government has enlightened the White House. Outrageous initiatives affecting businesses large and small, from small toymakers to the consumer electronics industry, will have a devastating impact on jobs. Farmers worry that climate change proposals will leave them unable to compete with low-cost agriculture imports of cotton and rice. The Environmental Protection Agency rules and increased taxes on domestic energy producers will drive more energy production overseas even as the administration claims to favor decreased foreign energy dependence.

No agency fuels the reg-cession like the EPA, and no industry is under attack more than coal. The agency was lead cheerleader for the disastrously expensive cap-and-trade initiative. Driven by an ideological agenda, the EPA wants to regulate carbon dioxide as a hazardous pollutant, despite the recently exposed holes in the United Nations claim and growing public concerns about cost. This agency, created by President Richard Nixon, was never intended to be a regulatory predator, gorging on federal dollars, expanding its turf and stalking its prey — jobs.

Yet, the EPA is stoking the kind of environmental extremism that has cost hundreds of Americans their jobs. The agency’s war on coal mining will slam workers across West Virginia, Virginia and Kentucky. Roughly 40 percent of the coal mined in the region comes from surface mining, which provides 14,000 jobs.

Combine the EPA’s efforts to limit surface mining with carbon dioxide regulation and you have a regulatory assault on coal that aims at nothing less than the economic cleansing of Appalachia. A recent report found that coal supports more than 63,000 jobs in West Virginia alone, producing $25.5 billion for the state’s economy.

The Obama administration’s response to this economic carnage is a promise that 21st-century green jobs, jump-started with billions in economic stimulus money, will trump the loss of manufacturing jobs. A pure fairy tale. Windmills frozen in Minnesota perhaps best chronicle the silliness of the green jobs hyperbole.

ABC’s “World News” recently reported “Wind Power Does Not Equal Job Power.” Well, millions of stimulus dollars do create jobs — in Asia. The largest green stimulus grant — $178 million — went to a bankrupt Australian company building a Texas wind farm using turbines manufactured by a Japanese company. Meanwhile, an American-Chinese venture to build a $1.5 billion wind farm in Texas collected $450 million in stimulus money. Unfortunately, the turbines are made in China. “The deal would create dozens of jobs in the U.S. and thousands in China,” concluded a study by the nonpartisan Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) expressed surprise that his vote on a bill no one had time to read had created Chinese and not American jobs.

Killing good jobs in America with regulation, then spending billions to create jobs overseas is never smart public policy, especially when nearly 1 in 10 Americans is out of work and job losses continue every month. It will take more than a few snow shovels to clean up this mess.

Don L. Blankenship is chairman and CEO of Massey Energy Co.

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