Big Government Is Over, If You Want it to Be Over

“So this is Christmas. And what have you done?”

John Lennon’s holiday classic, now weirdly about as ubiquitous at your local mall as “Jingle Bells,” seems to melt into the background of holiday regalia. But the question in its opening is well worth asking. As we bid adieu to 2013 and await 2014, I close my first year at the helm of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, on the front lines of the fight for economic freedom. It’s been a tough slog, and we’ve faced quite the onslaught, but I have good reasons for optimism. And so should you.

The year began with a certain sense of incredulity. In the months following the November 2012 election, I encountered discouraged conservatives and angry libertarians. Spending billions of dollars on political campaigns with almost nothing to show for it seemed like betting the farm and losing it all. (In the last few months that jaw-dropping display of White House incompetence known as “Obamacare” has only resuscitated those feelings of incredulity.)

And when President Obama, in his State of the Union remarks, articulated his intention to bypass Congress by using his administrative authority to implement his agenda, our frustration only increased.  Yet it was only a preview of the challenges just around the corner.

A key aspect of CEI’s legal challenge to the Dodd-Frank financial services law was papered over by Sen. McCain’s treacherous backroom deal to make Richard Cordray head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a regulatory agency set up under Dodd-Frank that has its own independent funding—a perfect recipe for avoiding congressional accountability.

The same deal also made Gina McCarthy head of the Environment Protection Agency, even though she well may have participated in hidden communications with her predecessor, Lisa Jackson, who resigned after CEI revealed her use of a secret alias email account.

Thanks, Senator, for ensuring that such people are now fully ensconced to continue their anti-free enterprise activity.

However, as spring follows winter, the early-year malaise gave way to some good news and important victories.

CEI’s tireless campaign to enforce transparency through Freedom of Information Act requests continued to frustrate the EPA’s efforts to implement the administration’s radical environmental agenda.

We teamed with several allied organizations to help pass the Regulations from Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act, requiring Congress to vote on all proposed “major” regulations—those expected to impose $100 million or more in annual costs—in the House and are making progress on similar passage in the Senate.

We helped stymie passage of an Internet sales tax bill and dampen congressional enthusiasm for a federal carbon tax.

We raised awareness of the practice known as “official time,” whereby government employees get paid by taxpayers to do purely union business.  And our highlighting of the National Park Service’s gross violations of private property rights during the government shutdown earned us an invitation to testify before Congress.

And then, really getting the nation’s attention, federal judges in the District of Columbia and Virginia green-lighted our legal challenges to the Affordable Care Act. Sam Kazman, CEI’s chief legal counsel, was interviewed on major national media outlets, including USA TODAY and Fox News. And a New York Times front page story listed CEI as one of the architects of a new round of legal challenges to Obamacare.

Just days later, CEI’s Angela Logomasini, our expert on product safety and consumer issues, appeared on ABC’s “Nightline” to weigh in on how environmental activists exaggerate consumer product “threats” posed in order to expand government power; The New York Post endorsed efforts to reform states’ beer distribution systems, echoing the work of another CEI expert, Michelle Minton; and CEI’s Marc Scribner, in USA Today, fired a shot across the bow at those Republican lawmakers who want the Federal Communications Commission to continue playing hall monitor for cell phone communications on airlines.

“Another year over.”

Day in and day out, we at CEI and our allies in the larger free-market movement work hard to educate Americans on how and why free market solutions that emphasize individual liberty and localized decision making work best. But we also are active in doing something about it, especially given the frequency with which congressional Republicans abandon those same principles. And we end the year with some rewards for our hard work.

“A new one just begun.”

Now, 2014 beckons. We enter the new year optimistic about our and others’ efforts to stem the tide of regulatory overreach, to prevent the government from intruding into its citizens’ economic lives—and airplanes and boardrooms and bank accounts and kitchens and grocery stores … .  2014 is a year of great promise.  We have worldviews to dent, regulatory trains to derail, capitalists to save and statists to shame.  And that’s just during January.

In another year not too far away, may we ring it out with, “Big government is over, if you want it to be over.”