Wednesday, January 19, 2011

If Obama really wanted to cut burdensome regulations, he'd look in the mirror

It's all well and good for President Obama to try to get a good buzz going from the corporate rule by signing an executive order to eliminate burdensome regulations. Well, as the WSJ writes, the fault dear President Obama lies not in historic regulations, but in your own regulations. It is the regulations that his administration has done in the past two years that are burdening the economy.
The four years of the Pelosi Congress have been the most costly since that year [1992], according to the White House budget office. And based on filings in the Federal Register, Heritage Foundation analysts estimate that 2010 will top them all at $26.5 billion. Some 195 other major rules are currently on the docket—up four merely since last week.

This surge will continue. Sarbanes-Oxley delegated 16 rule-makings to the executive branch, yet the Dodd-Frank financial law calls for literally hundreds of new rules by dozens of agencies, and two entirely new agencies. The Congressional Research Service reports that ObamaCare "gives federal agencies substantial responsibility and authority to 'fill in the details' of the legislation," a process that may take "years, or even decades" to complete.

Other hyperactive regulators include the Federal Communications Commission (net neutrality), the Food and Drug Administration (food safety, medical devices) and the Labor Department (the SEIU's wish list). But the worst offender is the Environmental Protection Agency, which is rewriting environmental law with almost no scrutiny.

The EPA's goal is to impose carbon emissions limits that even Democrats in Congress rejected, in particular through its "endangerment finding"—which unless Congress intervenes will become the costliest regulation in government history. EPA is also re-regulating conventional air pollutants, often bypassing the usual notice and public comment. It isn't a good omen that Mr. Obama singled out the EPA and its carbon-emissions rules (as related to auto fuel efficiency) as a model of "smart" regulation.

Still, the spectacle of this White House declaring "least burdensome" as its default position really is something to behold. As the old line goes, the surprise is not that it's done well, but that it's done at all.

If Mr. Obama wants to capitalize on this epiphany, he'll go along with attempts in Congress to temper his Administration's regulatory boom, including wholesale review of new rules. As the President now concedes, over-regulation robs the private economy of resources that could go to create jobs and new businesses.
As the WSJ points out, the executive branch should still be governing under an executive order that President Clinton signed in 1993 to do the same thing. Until we see Obama reevaluating some of his own administration's additions to the regulatory burden, don't believe that his attitude towards the business world has changed.