Government regulations cost Steven Lathrop decades of his life and pushed him into financial ruin, according to a new video released by Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI).
Lathrop’s home of Granite City, Illinois, regularly suffered from storm flooding that damaged his neighbor’s homes, and even cost the taxpayers money in federal disaster aid.
In 1965, Congress directed the Army Corps of Engineers to fix the problem. They conducted eight studies from then until 1995, two of which recommended building lakes and channels to abate the flooding. But government did nothing, and the flooding continued.
Lathrop did act, however. He purchased flood lands that were being used as a trash dumping ground and converted them into a lake – a lake that fixed the flooding problem and would eventually allow him to build a new community of affordable homes.
But then, government’s heavy hand descended. The Army Corps designated the land he had improved a “wetland” and threatened him with jail and fines of up to $25,000 per day, unless he spent his own money to turn the lake back into its original condition. The Environmental Protection Agency designated it as a “non-functioning wetland.”
“They not only ordered me to stop work, but they also ordered me to fill in the reservoir I created and restore the dump to its original state,” Lathrop wrote in 2003.
His attempt to build wetlands nearby cost him $200,000, according to Johnson, but the government has refused to let him proceed.
“I was threatened with jail and fines for turning a dump into a lake and resolving a 40-year flooding problem. In the process of building houses, I was doing, at no cost to the taxpayer, what two expensive government studies had recommended—digging a lake or reservoir to control flooding,” he wrote.
According to Johnson, America’s annual regulatory burden is $1.75 trillion. That’s money that comes out of Americans’ pockets. Lathrop’s experience proves how those closest to the problems are best positioned to solve them, as noted by Heritage’s American Conservative Ethic, and that the federal government’s red tape generally just gets in the way or even destroys opportunity.
“The red tape and regulatory intransigence have shut down my effort to build affordable homes,” wrote Lathrop. “It has me, my wife, Ruth, and our two daughters teetering on the brink of financial ruin.”