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This graph shows the civilian unemployment rate in America since 1970. It’s been kind of up and down, dropping as low as 4 percent after the economic boom of the 1990s. On average, it’s been at about 6.1 percent, per my back-of-the-envelope calculations.

So House Republicans have a clever idea: Let’s ban any new major regulations until unemployment drops below 6 percent! It’s called the “Regulatory Freeze for Jobs Act,” the thinking being that tacking “for Jobs” onto the end of any random phrase will increase the likelihood of passage. (“Banning Sex for Jobs.” “Sending Puppies to Canada for Jobs.”) But really: no major new regulations at all. The Congressional Budget Office, tasked with figuring out the possible cost of the proposal, basically threw up its hands and said, “Dunno.” [PDF] Because seriously: what?

Sherwood Boehlert, former Republican U.S. rep from New York state, weighed in at The Hill.

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[T]his bill is not drafted to deal with any practical concern …; it’s designed to codify an ideological fantasy. Bills like this make it harder, not easier to get down to the real work of improving the regulatory system.


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Atlas may shrug, but mere mortals should take note. The right wing is serious about disabling the government.

This alligator both relates to the story and is a metaphor. (Photo by renedrivers.)

Indeed! Last week, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar warned of another way in which the right wing is trying to disable government: choking off funding for conservation programs.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Wednesday that budget proposals by congressional Republicans could amount to “a death knell” for conservation programs nationwide.

Visiting the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge outside Boynton Beach, Salazar at times struck a political tone, criticizing the GOP while touting the Obama administration’s Everglades restoration efforts. He said he feared a turnaround in a variety of conservation efforts because of budget cuts that “basically decimate” core programs.

“A great fear I have is that there will be a U-turn,” he said.

Um, yes. I think that’s a valid fear, Mr. Secretary. After all, even if a nuclear company were somehow legally dumping waste in the Everglades, no one could do anything about it until 94 percent of Americans were working.

The good news for the Everglades is that they got in under the wire. Even if the House’s Rand-ian hellscape bill passed (“Randian Hellscapes for Jobs”), the money is already there to clean up the wetlands. Plus, it will create jobs in construction, getting us that much closer to the all-important 6 percent.

Probably worth noting that the cleanup is happening only because a judge forced Florida and the EPA into action. Activist judges: maybe a better deal than an activist Congress.

Update: Well, the good news is that the 6 percent unemployment figure isn’t part of the submitted bill. Instead, it’s six percent employment.

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.

Glad to see that such important legislation was handled with such attention to detail.