A Contrarian Take on Congressional Productivity

By Veronique de Rugy

April 8, 2015 5 min read

Many people complain that the most recent two Congresses were incredibly unproductive. That's nonsense. To be sure, fewer laws were enacted when compared with what past Congresses did, but think about that for a moment. Most laws are an imposition of more regulations, new restrictions on our freedoms or government-dispensed privileges to a few at the expense of the many. The 580 laws these two Congresses managed to push through are already too much.

Congress should actually continue to shrink its lawmaking — and when passing a bill, it should enhance freedom.

For example, next year, Social Security's disability insurance trust fund will run out of money, triggering a 20 percent cut to benefits. This is a great opportunity for Congress to reform this money pit of a program by aligning eligibility standards to benefit those who are genuinely disabled and poor.

Congress could also repeal the Affordable Care Act. President Barack Obama's health care plan appears to be unconstitutional, expensive and driving up the cost of health care, and it requires 18 new taxes with bureaucratic rationing of health. This would be the first step toward freeing the health care market. Congress could then implement health insurance premium support and turn Medicaid into block grants.

That would introduce more consumer choices and competition among health care suppliers to improve health care prices. However, nothing will radically impact prices as much as the kinds of revolutionary innovation in the health care industry that we've seen in fields such as information technology. To achieve that goal, Congress must first free the health care supply from the many constraints imposed by federal and state governments (in both blue and red states) and the special interests they serve. That means passing legislation to radically reform the Food and Drug Administration and the Medicare reimbursement system.

Congress also has an opportunity to end a New Deal-era program called the Export-Import Bank. This agency extends cheap loans and loan guarantees to gigantic and often wealthy corporations abroad — for example, the Mexican government's oil and gas company, Pemex, and many of our domestic airline competitors around the globe — so they will buy products from gigantic U.S. corporations. The Ex-Im Bank is the poster child of cronyism and should be terminated. That's an easy task to accomplish because all Congress needs to do is let the bank dissolve in June when its charter expires.

In order to take a giant step toward ending cronyism, however, my colleague Matt Mitchell suggests passing a constitutional amendment prohibiting all corporate bailouts. He explains, "With the knowledge that they alone bear the costs of their mistakes, firms would be more prudent, and the entire financial system would be more secure."

Finally, Congress could engage in fundamental tax reform. Moving to a flat tax, one low rate applied across our income, would not just shrink and simplify our taxes. It would also reduce considerably the role and size of the IRS — an agency that can be abusive, serves taxpayers poorly during tax season, oversees a massive amount of improper payments under policies such as the earned income tax credit (under which 25 percent of the payments are improperly made) and unlawfully pays out Affordable Care Act subsidies through the federal exchange.

There are more reforms worth considering, such as a repeal of the Dodd-Frank Act, which expands banks' safety net and uses the banking system to redistribute wealth. But whatever it does, Congress should pass bills that shrink, rather than expand, the size and scope of government.

Veronique de Rugy is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. To find out more about Veronique de Rugy and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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