One small typo, one big difference

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I’ve been known to inadvertently publish an occasional typo, so I’m the last guy to condemn others for their own slipups, but there’s a larger significance to this amusing story.

A typo in the House’s latest jobs bill would freeze all major regulations until nearly everyone is out of a job.

A version of H.R. 4078 posted on the House Rules Committee website would put a freeze on significant regulatory actions until the “average of monthly employment rates for any quarter … is equal to or less than 6.0 percent.”

The glitch – “employment” instead of “unemployment” – would mean no more major regulations until unemployment hits 94 percent.

Now that they’re aware of the typo, House Republicans are seeking unanimous consent to replace the existing legislation with an identical bill that fixes the error. But they’re not going to get it – House Democrats said overnight that they’ll object to the change, effectively derailing the GOP’s regulatory bill for a while.

Keep in mind, this is hardly a must-pass bill; it’s one of those election-season measures House Republicans are pushing as a political stunt. House Dems don’t see the need to play along, so they won’t.

I mention this, though, not to point and laugh at legislative incompetence, but to highlight the larger significance of the underlying point: GOP lawmakers are convinced that regulations are standing in the way of job growth, so regulations should be halted until the jobs crisis passes. The problem is that the Republican argument doesn’t make any sense – and policymakers can’t be expected to address problems they don’t understand.

When the right first started pushing this line, there were detailed 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 research – which all said the same thing: government regulations are not responsible for holding back the economy.

Arguably the most comprehensive report came by way of the Washington Post’s Jia Lynn Yang, who concluded 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.

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.

The typo is embarrassing, but the policy ignorance is worse.

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One small typo, one big difference

Updated