Obama’s results: Less economic freedom and more poverty

A new study co-authored by Robert Lawson, the Jerome M. Fullinwider Chair in Economic Freedom in SMU's Cox School of Business, says America now is experiencing less economic freedom and more poverty.

This is certain to freak out the left. The Economic Freedom Network (which receives funding from the Charles Koch Institute) is out with a report on economic freedom around the world. The study measures 42 factors to gauge economic freedom in 141 countries. The five broad areas of measurement are: Size of Government: Expenditures, Taxes and Enterprises; Legal Structure and Security of Property Rights; Access to Sound Money; Freedom to Trade Internationally; and Regulation of Credit, Labor and Business.

The principal authors of the report, James Gwartney (Florida State University), Robert Lawson (Southern Methodist University), and Joshua Hall (Beloit College) found that using these criteria, the United States has dropped four places to 10. The United States now ranks behind Singapore, New Zealand, Switzerland, Australia, Canada, Chile, the United Kingdom, and Mauritius in economic freedom.

Some of the factors in the U.S. decline include:

• Federal debt per household doubled under President Bush to reach $86,677 by the end of 2008 and is on pace to double again to $184,926 per household by 2016.
• The directory of federal government regulations, The Federal Register, has increased to more than 81,000 pages. If you read 100 pages a day, it would take you two years to read the regulations. The Federal Register is now 450 times as long as the instructions for filing your tax return.
• As the growth of government spending has sped-up, the growth of the private sector economy has slowed down.
• As a result of overspending and unnecessary regulations, the US is enduring the longest streak of unemployment above 8.5 percent since the government started measuring it 60 years ago.

Whether you buy into the value of each of the study’s measurements or dispute the United States’ relative ranking, these data points in and of themselves are deeply disturbing. Moreover, this comes at a time when there are more Americans living in poverty than at any time in the past 52 years. It’s not as if the restrictions on economic freedom have improved the status of the poor or narrowed inequalities between rich and poor.

Considering these findings you can understand why President Obama is increasingly unpopular with both Democrats and Republicans. The left is miffed over the failure of his liberal agenda to help the poor and tame unemployment. The right is incensed that he doesn’t recognize the impact of his policies on growth, wealth creation and unemployment. Whatever one’s measure of a successful economic agenda, Obama isn’t achieving it. And nothing in his inordinately partisan debt plan and speech is likely to change that.

UPDATE (2:15 p.m.): The Charles Koch Institute informs me that the Institute did not directly pay for the study. Rather, the Charles Koch Foundation donates to the Fraser Institute. which produces the Economic Freedom report annually.

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