Sen. Mike Lee says economic freedom in the United States has declined—along with other freedoms—during a COVID-19 pandemic that prompted increased government spending and regulation.
“Anytime you see other freedoms infringed, I think economic freedoms are deteriorating at the same time, because of government action,” Lee, R-Utah, said in an interview on the podcast of Heritage Foundation President Kevin Roberts. (The Daily Signal is the news outlet of The Heritage Foundation.)
“You saw people being told that they couldn’t go to church because they couldn’t do all sorts of things, that they had to wear a mask in public, that they had to have a procedure they may or may not want, or may or may not need based on their own medical history, and natural immunity,” Lee said. “Anytime you see those things happening, you see a corresponding diminution of economic liberty.”
“Economic freedom was diminished as government churned out trillions of dollars that it didn’t have, just printing it off, as regulations affected businesses, told businesses they would have to fire anyone who didn’t defer to a presidential medical orthodoxy as it relates to the vaccine mandates,” the Utah senator added. “So, these are all examples of how economic freedom has diminished with a particular pace over the last two years.”
Roberts noted that economic freedom is not hypothetical or theoretical.
“This isn’t about formulas or theories. It’s about improving your quality of life. That’s something we should all agree on,” Roberts said. “Economic freedom means higher incomes, better health, more educational opportunities, a clean environment, technological innovation, democratic governance, and very importantly, adhering to the rule of law.”
Spending trillions of dollars we don’t have and an increase in regulations have been key contributors to inflation, more than 7% nationally, and more than 9% in Utah, the senator said of his home state.
“This particular increase is directly attributable to the fact that throughout the last two years, we’ve been spending trillions of dollars a year more than we bring in,” Lee said. “We are just printing money, which just creates inflation.”
We can also bring about change through regulatory reform. The Code of Federal Regulations costs the American economy an estimated $2 trillion or so a year.
This is a backdoor, invisible tax increase on poor and middle-class Americans. Only it’s one that’s not typically understood by the average American, because there is no cost breakdown on any product you buy that says, ‘Here’s how much more you are paying for this product as a result of unnecessary federal regulations.’
Russia-Ukraine Crisis ‘Entirely Avoidable’
Lee said President Joe Biden should lift the regulatory barriers on oil and gas exploration and production on federal lands. He said those barriers directly correlate to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“My thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Ukraine, who are living through an awful form of hell dealing with this invasion,” Lee said.
“This crisis was entirely avoidable,” Lee added. “I don’t think we would have ever gotten here if we were playing a more prominent role in energy production. If [Russian President Vladimir] Putin had the United States offsetting Europe’s dependency on his oil and gas, Putin never would have been in a position politically, economically, or militarily to do what he is doing.”
He said Biden should approve the Keystone XL pipeline, which transported oil from Canada into the United States. Biden halted the project in January 2021.
“You can’t immediately undo what took more time to put in place than that, but it would be a good start, a good signal,” Lee said.
High Court Nominee’s Hearing to Be ‘Thorough’
Biden last week nominated U.S. Circuit Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court.
“I congratulate Judge Jackson on her nomination and preparing for meetings with her and hearings with her, reviewing everything I can, particularly her opinions that she’s authored as a judge,” said Lee, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will conduct confirmation hearings.
“This process is going to be thorough, and it’s going to be a robust discussion about judicial philosophy and her prior rulings,” the Utah senator added.
He also referenced Democratic senators’ conduct in the nominations of Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas and the failed nomination of Robert Bork.
“One thing that shows the contrast between the two political parties is that I can assure you as a member of the Judiciary Committee that what you are not going to see is the politics of personal destruction employed against a Supreme Court nominee,” Lee said. “I can’t think of a single Democratic nominee where that has been employed by a Republican Senate. Tragically, I can think of a lot of examples where Republicans have faced that from Senate Democrats.”
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