Political Animal


October 13, 2011 4:00 PM McCain’s ‘billions and billions’ (non-Sagan version)

By Steve Benen

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?

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • rusty chainsaw on October 13, 2011 4:07 PM:

    Unfortunately for the USA, from a policy perspective, they’re living in fantasy land.


  • DAY on October 13, 2011 4:12 PM:

    There is a direct correlation between unemployment and crop circles.
    Number studies prove this.

  • stormskies on October 13, 2011 4:16 PM:

    There is also a direct correlation between crop circles and people who live in state of utter delusion: McCain and the RePIGlicans prove this ....

  • c u n d gulag on October 13, 2011 4:17 PM:

    John McCain not understanding economics?

    He doesn't understand zippers, and that's why his staff is usually in a foul mood, having to make sure the Senator doesn't have little Johnny Mac out.

  • Extreme Moderate on October 13, 2011 4:23 PM:

    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?

    To counter the Democratic message that the republicans have no jobs program. Now the debate is about whether or not it will work better than the Democratic alternative

    To bring up just as many embarrassing / hard votes for Dems as possible. Being pro regulation is a vote-loser. It's like being against apple pie given how easy it is to paint an anecdotal picture of government run amok (I don't think we're over-regulated, by the way. I'm jut saying it's easy to make a case that it is with a bunch of isolated examples. It's like these people have forgotten the BP spill).

    To blur and obfuscate the Democratic message to the 80% of the electorate who are low income voters. If you keep repeating something often enough with great conviction (we have a REAL jobs plan) there are a lot of people out there who will think it's true. Just ask Michele Bachman and Slobodan "There Are No Serbian Artillery Units Shelling Sarajevo" Milosevic.

    The republicans have a simple message - the economy is being held back by regulations and debt. And if we solve those two things the economy will grow.

    The dems have a simple message - the economy is being held back by lack of consumer demand. And people aren't buying because...because...I'm a dem but I haven't heard the simple explanation. I'm sure there is one out there, and maybe it actually has been advanced, but I haven't heard it pounded and pounded and pounded like the GoP has done...

  • kevo on October 13, 2011 4:36 PM:

    Unfettered hyperbolic rhetoric coming from a duly elected Senator is the story, but not the one our illustrious media is gonna get!

    Hyperbole in politics is part of the landscape, but the sustained, unchecked crazy-talk coming from the likes of McCain and his Republican cohorts is irresponsible, unproductive, and damaging to a people who pride themselves on Yankee ingenuity!

    Billions and billions of jobs - sounds like McCain is focusing on creating jobs in China with that many people in mind!

    In fact, if McCain wants to run an economy without regulations where led gets into every item produced, he should just move to China! -Kevo

  • T2 on October 13, 2011 4:43 PM:

    "why in the world would Senate Republicans ask him to put together a jobs plan " because they know he'll screw it up and therefore accomplish the goal - which is to kill time until the election!
    Don't forget, McCain thought Sarah Palin would be a great second in line to lead the nation.

  • sick-n-effn-tired. on October 13, 2011 4:46 PM:

    Well sheeeit I hope someone invites him on a Sunday talk show to tell us all about it. Wadda think the chances are? He hasn't been on in so long.

  • TreeTop on October 13, 2011 5:02 PM:

    A country will only 312 million people can lose "billions and billions" of jobs . . . because without regulations we would all be working more than three jobs, like Erik Erikson.

  • apmat on October 13, 2011 5:38 PM:

    I thought that businesses weren't hiring because the deficit was too high, not because there were too many regulations?

  • Mac on October 13, 2011 7:01 PM:

    Why does the GOP want our food to have bacteria and mercury in it?

    Why does the GOP want our children's toys to be covered in lead?
    ... etc.

    That's what you ask folks who thinks regulations are a problem. Rinse. Repeat.

  • Meanie-meanie, tickle a person on October 13, 2011 7:18 PM:

    Federal regulations, which are coming out by the thousands, costing businesses billions and billions of jobs.

    Not jobs, Steve. He meant dollars, but managed not to actually say it. I really think his other brain cell fired just in time there...

  • boatboy_srq on October 13, 2011 7:51 PM:


    I thought McCain thought he'd been Star Trekking again...

    Scott: "I can't believe I've traveled millions of miles - "
    McCoy (
    sotto voce): "Thousands"
    Scott: "Thousands of miles..."

    And CAPTCHA says "adermic Gracious." Fitting, somehow.

    I DID like the previous Captcha - "antlay after" - but I figured that was better suited to Santorum's "No sex, please, we're Republican" campaign.

  • 718BKNYC on October 13, 2011 7:57 PM:

    Ok, here's a real life example. I work in the financial services industry obviously impacted by Dodd/Frank. One of the rules being contemplated is requiring my company to send duplicate statements and documentation to multiple addresses whether our customers want it or not. It will cost well over $5million dollars to implement and a million annually to support. That's new expenses not currently being incurred. That money isn't coming out of thin air which means either we don't hire people we need, can't invest in areas we need to or cut benefits (yes, I mean salary and bonuses ). Now I'm way left on a lot of things, but in my case, some of these regs do have significant financial impact. I wouldn't just brush it aside as an illegitimate issue. Common sense is not reigning supreme on a lot of things but the right doesn't have a lock on dumb ideas. Now, yes, I'm all for regulation but smart sensible regulations not knee jerk ones.

  • Lance on October 13, 2011 9:04 PM:

    I'm going to cut the moron a break and say he meant "Billions of Dollars and Millions of Jobs" and simply couldn't get it out right.

  • Mac on October 13, 2011 9:07 PM:

    Yeah, regulations can be a pain. I have to file USDA reports for animals that don't exist. Athletes that aren't doping still have to experience random urine tests. Unfair? Maybe. But it's not the regulations fault. You can thank all the reckless, selfish jerks who will endanger the "public common" in order to get ahead.

  • Dan B on October 13, 2011 9:16 PM:

    Those studies appear to be asking "everyone who isn't here raise your hand", and then concluding that everyone is there.

    Most jobs are created by small business, not large, but large businesses are much easier to survey and less prone to simply going under. "Mass layoffs" of the type mentioned mean the company has gone under, that this even shows up in the survey shows how nonsensical it is.

    Small companies don't have the manpower to read/understand/comply with thousands of pages of regulations. Claiming regulations don't cost jobs is nonsensical, the economy clearly has other problems in addition, but in theory regulation is something we could do something about.

  • Mac on October 13, 2011 11:07 PM:

    @Dan B

    Then run a better study and see if the results are different. Poll companies that declared bankruptcy and see if the primary cause was regulatory burden. I doubt it, but I'm open to data telling me otherwise.

    Also, the individuals I know who are running small businesses are managing their regulatory "burdens" just fine. In fact, their main fear is from the legal departments of larger corporations (i.e., filing suits simply to weaken the smaller businesses).

  • ottercliff on October 14, 2011 11:49 AM:

    He's very old and very bitter that he blew his chance to be president and he hates Barack Obama for denying him that chance and he's tired from making an ass of himself over and over arguing that Sarah Palin was a great choice for VP and so he shouldn't be held accountable for what he says, thinks, or does.....The question is: why is invited to the Sunday talk shows more than anyone else??