Loss of Economic Liberty Tracks With Losing Other Freedoms

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 Heritage Foundation’s news outlet is The Daily Signal.

“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.”

The United States dropped to 25th place on The Heritage Foundation’s annual Index of Economic Freedom for 2022 releasedIn February. That’s the U.S.’ lowest ranking in the history of the index.

“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 stated that economic freedom does not exist in a hypothetical or theoretical sense. 

“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.”

He said: 

Regulative reform is another way to bring about change. The American economy loses approximately $2 trillion per year due to the Code of Federal Regulations. 

This is a backdoor, invisible tax hike on middle-class and poor 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 stated that President Joe Biden should remove the regulatory barriers to oil and gas exploration and production on federal lands. He stated that these barriers directly relate to the Russian invasion in 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.”

Biden should approve Keystone XL, which transports oil from Canada to the United States. Biden stopped 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. 

Nominated by High Courtee’s Hearing to Be ‘Thorough’

Biden last week nominated U.S. Circuit Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson will be appointed 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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