Guest Editorial


America's freedom continues to slip

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rick manningOur nation continues to lose its economic freedom.

That is the result of the just-released Heritage Foundation 2014 Index of Economic Freedom.   Since President Obama took office, the United States of America has slipped six spots in the Index with this year's drop out of the world's top ten freest economies serving as a cold slap in the face to those who equate Uncle Sam with freedom.

The Heritage report attributes the drop, "primarily due to deteriorations in property rights, fiscal freedom, and business freedom."

The report continues to describe the decline of economic freedom in the United States since 2006 saying there have been "particularly large losses in property rights, freedom from corruption, and control of government spending." 

The United States has earned the dubious distinction of being the only country in the world, "to have recorded a loss of economic freedom each of the past seven years."

It should be no surprise to those who have followed the politics and government over the past seven years that the United States has experienced a dramatic expansion in the size and scope of government, even with recent attempts to rein in spending. 

In 2006, the total outlays of the federal government were $2.65 trillion compared with outlays in the past fiscal year of $3.45 trillion.  The good news is that over the past three years, spending has dropped by approximately $200 billion; the bad news is that the cost of government has still increased by more than 30 percent in just seven years. 

However, even more chilling is that the scope of government has expanded much more rapidly than even the dramatic increase in the budget shows.

The Environmental Protection Agency and other environmental regulators have been the primary culprits in this attack on economic freedom.  These agencies under Obama have engaged in a regulatory war against domestically produced energy with a primary focus on destroying markets for coal, both at home and abroad. 

However, the Obama Administration's efforts have not just been limited to attacks on coal.  The Department of the Interior has made domestic energy development on public lands extremely difficult through impossible to meet licensing requirements and taking large swaths of natural resources rich land out of development.

Interior has also continued its attack on timber and other renewable resource industries under the false guise of species protection.  This is exemplified by the federal government's attempts to dramatically increase the habitats of the northern spotted owl, in spite of the fact that the species thrives on timbered land, and its main biological problem is the Horned Owl, not any activity by man.  This effort to expand habitats across the nation is a primary example of the overall loss of private property rights that has contributed to the precipitous decline in America's standing as one of the freest nations in the world.

The report also measures whether a government is free from corruption, and has an honest electoral system.  In this area, it notes that in the U.S., "The growth of government has been accompanied by increasing cronyism that has undermined the rule of law and perceptions of fairness."

While the 2014 Economic Freedom Index is a stark warning about the erosion of freedom in our nation, it is not all bad news as America ranks top in the world in labor freedom and the progress made in lowering the deficit from more than $1.4 trillion to just under $700 billion in a few short years.

America is still the greatest country in the world.  It is the responsibility of its citizens to keep it that way, and reports like the Heritage 2014 Economic Freedom Index are a useful warning light to areas where the freedoms that make our nation great are most in jeopardy. 

As Benjamin Franklin famously is quoted as saying, ""Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

The only question is what the people are going to do to stop this erosion of freedom? 

Rick Manning is the vice president of public policy and communications for Americans for Limited Government.