Is Obama Really a Deregulator?

January 18th, 2011 at 11:42 pm | 3 Comments |

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Walter Olson writes:

In today’s much talked-of Wall Street Journal op-ed, medical President Obama reaches for common ground with critics of excessive government regulation — not a constituency he’s had much time for in the past. He announced an executive order requiring agencies to review existing regulation for outdated or unwise rules deserving of being struck from the books. That drew measured praise from organized business groups, something the President has not had much of lately.

Many left partisans are aghast, just as they were when Bill Clinton dashed for the political center after his own mid-term electoral “shellacking.” Salon complains that Obama’s op-ed “reads like an apology to the business community,” while Rena Steinzor fears the move signals a decline in influence for the administration’s regulatory ultras, such as Margaret Hamburg (FDA), Lisa Jackson (EPA), and David Michaels (OSHA).

Environmental law expert Jonathan Adler thinks the new executive order might do some good:

The Executive Order is here. It reaffirms the basic principles outlined in President Clinton’sExecutive Order 12866, issued in September 1993, and continues to require agencies to conduct cost-benefit analyses of proposed rules. As noted in the President’s op-ed, it also requires agencies to engage in “retrospective analysis” of existing rules so as to accelerate the pace at which outdated regulations are revoked. Specifically, it requires all agencies to develop a plan for such retrospective review within 120 days. If the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs ensures such reviews are meaningful, this could be a significant and positive step.

That’s a big “if.” Over the past two years, OIRA has not restrained its administration colleagues from making 2010 by far the biggest year for new regulatory burdens in memory (Heritage helpfully assembles details.) The most burdensome new rules are not from the best-known areas of new legislation, such as ObamaCare and financial reform, but from the environmental area. That makes it especially disturbing that, as Ted Frank points out, the President’s op-ed “singles out the top-down and economically inefficient fuel-economy regulation as a good one.”

So what does Obama see as an example of an excessive regulation needing repeal? The example he offers is the inclusion of the sweetener saccharin in the category of hazardous waste. Really?Saccharin as hazardous waste? Amid dozens of high-stakes, much-studied regulatory controversies, the only one he could come up with is one that — with all due respect to the people who make the little pink packets — is of hardly any significance to the wider economy, and not much more as a matter of principle?

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3 Comments so far ↓

  • some-guy

    This is the stuff liberals geek out on. It may surprise conservatives to learn that when liberals get together and talk government, we don’t talk about how to make it bigger. Rather, we talk about how to take the existing structure, which is good in some areas and terrible in others, and make it work for the people of this country.

    I am a beer geek, and I love talking about the historical differences between porters and stouts, for example, with other beer geeks. I am also an America geek, as are most liberals. I love discussing the historical difference between the American education system and the British educational system, for example.

    This executive order is surely a political move, but to call it a rightward shift is deeply confused. It is part and parcel of the liberal conversation. Only by buying into the overly simplistic media definitions of our political system can this be called a conservative action.

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  • balconesfault

    What a shock – after 8 years of absolute deliberate neglect of environmental rulemaking and enforcement by the Bush Administration (much of it orchestrated by EPA political level appointees who were vetted by Heritage going in), Heritage is shocked that a Democratic President makes a big push for the environment when he takes office.