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Viewpoints: Over-regulation responsible for widening income disparities

Recently, President Barack Obama talked about the growing income disparities between the rich and the middle class in the United States.

Speaking to a liberal audience, the president said that there is a “growing income inequality and a lack of upward mobility that has jeopardized middle-class America’s basic bargain, that if you work hard, you have a chance to get ahead.”

You may be surprised to learn that I agree with the president. All Americans, regardless of who they are or where they come from, should have the chance to achieve the American dream and move out of a life of poverty to one of prosperity.

Unfortunately, their shot at the American dream has diminished because of the president’s own big-government policies. Over-regulation, high taxes and government picking winners and losers have reduced opportunities for hardworking Americans to chart their own economic destiny.

One of the main reasons why there are more than 5 million fewer manufacturing jobs in the United States today than there were in 2001 is because big government has added hurdles and driven up costs, reducing our competitiveness in the global marketplace.

We have seen this with the unaccountable bureaucrats at the California Air Resources Board imposing overreaching diesel regulations on farmers and small-business owners in the north state communities I represent. Well-intended laws like Proposition 65, which was adopted by voters in 1986 to protect Californians from hazardous materials and chemicals, have been abused by trial lawyers through junk lawsuits with the intent to shake down small businesses for personal gain. Statewide, innocent small businesses are considered guilty until proved innocent. These businesses are levied large fines for minor violations with no real due process.

When government isn’t imposing outright barriers to prosperity for some industries, it’s using government policy to pick winners and losers.

We saw this with the significant government handout to the failed “green energy” company Solyndra in the Bay Area, which was forced to close its doors amid a major national scandal. All in all, Solyndra received $34.5 million in state tax breaks and more than $600 million in stimulus dollars from the Obama administration.

Make no mistake, I want California to be a place where ideas go from the drawing board to the assembly line. But the free market should determine which entities succeed and prosper, not government. At the very least, government should be encouraging every business to succeed, instead of engaging in crony capitalism to boost its favorites.

When I look at government economic policy today, it reminds me of the British class system of centuries ago, which the colonists ultimately rebelled from in the American Revolution. Back then, your standing in society and your economic opportunities were determined by your lineage and by government policy, not through your hard work, creativity and determination.

Sadly, it seems these days as if we are getting to a place where there is an American class system, with government policy determining which favored industries will prosper, which jobs will be supported by taxpayers and which businesses will succeed or fail.

The solution to this growing problem of economic inequality is not growing government, as Obama and his allies propose. It is getting government out of the way so people can truly prosper again.