EDMOND — EDITOR’S NOTE: This is one of a series of stories profiling candidates on the 2012 election ballot.
Regulatory schemes set by a centralized government are blocking small business growth in the U.S., Congressman James Lankford said last week at a forum sponsored by the Edmond Area Chamber of Commerce.
Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District voters will go to the polls Nov. 6 to choose who will represent them in Congress. Incumbent Republican Lankford is defending his House seat from fellow Edmond resident Tom Guild, a Democrat, and Independent candidates Pat Martin of Jones and Robert T. Murphy of Norman.
A member of the House Budget Committee, Lankford said his committee heard testimony recently that a small group of highly educated technocrats can make better decisions for business than the general population.
“To me that’s jarring, because what that sends the message of is there’s a small group in Washington with that perspective that makes better decisions than you make for your family and your business,” Lankford said. “I totally disagree.”
Lankford said the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act is causing community banks to be burdened by regulations that Dodd-Frank set for large investment banks.
“For the over-regulation of industry, like the energy industry, there are 29 different consent decrees that have been laid down on environmental regulations like energy,” Lankford said.
These consent decrees were created without respect to legislative representation of the people, Lankford said. Consent decrees are created by outside groups through a judicial process applied to states and cities, he added.
Lankford is in support of the Unfunded Federal Reform Act, written to prevent federal regulators from creating a mandate to be applied to a city, state, county or private business, he said.
“That’s not even rational. That’s a different type of tax,” Lankford said. “So we are at a decision time as a nation to decide where we want to go — centralized planning or economic freedom.”
Economists and scientists are needed to provide expert testimony, Guild said. While American history shows that business is indispensable to society, unregulated business is not always a healthy solution, he said.
“For instance, we need clean air. We need clean water,” Guild said. “We found out by the disaster on Wall Street a few years ago …that Wall Street can write their own rules, bankers can write their own rules, polluters can write their own rules.”
There are times when reasonable, balanced regulation is appropriate for business, said Guild, after pointing out that he lost half of his net worth when Wall Street crashed in 2008.
“I want business to be as unregulated as possible with this caveat,” Guild said. “We’ve got to look out for the public interest and we have to have reasonable regulations because we’ve learned the hard lesson of history that things can really unravel if we don’t have reasonable regulations.”
Bad debt gets in the way of business growth while the Federal Reserve has made interest rates nearly zero, Murphy said. Banks are borrowing money from the Federal Reserve then buying treasury bonds, he said.
“Instead of lending it out to people, they’re buying treasury bonds, which are very safe investments, supposedly,” Murphy said.
Business prospers when it produces a product that people want and sells it to people with the money to purchase it, Murphy continued. Debt is pervasive in the U.S. economy while the federal government continues to borrow money, he said. Student loan debt will not enable them to purchase products without any money after they graduate from college, he said.
“I’m not sure exactly if we’re going to get out of this situation intact,” said Murphy, questioning if the U.S. will go to war with China or Iran. He said the Euro is on the verge of collapse in Europe.
Martin said the $16 trillion national debt and war in Afghanistan is causing uncertainty about how the U.S. should move forward. Deregulation is a common suggestion, he said.
“I’ve even heard some people say we need to eliminate government regulation altogether in education, in medical licensing and practicing,” Martin said. “I think Dr. Guild mentioned something that is important, that there are a number of areas where regulation is important, but we need responsible regulation.”
Standards set for education allows for higher educational opportunities, Martin said. A physician should not have an opportunity to do transplants at their mom’s house, he said.
“There’s room for government regulation but there’s room to be responsible,” he said.