Free Markets, Free People

Just words? Obama on a “21st Century regulatory” regime

President Obama has an op/ed in the Wall Street Journal (a carefully chosen venue to project a “pro-business” lean, I’m sure) in which he touts an Executive Order he is signing which orders a review of all federal regulation ostensibly to bring them inline with today’s realities and help root out those which stifle job creation.

On the surface, nothing at all objectionable in the premise.  Obama claims the purpose of the effort is to ensure that what regulation is kept represents “common sense rules of the road that strengthen our country without unduly interfering with the pursuit of progress and the growth of our economy.”

Fine and dandy.  I’d love to see that applied to the letter.  I just have no real confidence that this is anything other than show (a visible move toward the center) or that bureaucracies will pay it any attention.  Of course that’s something we’ll have to see and monitor.

But … again, backing government out of much of the present regulatory regime (“unduly interfering” in Obama’s words) would indeed be a help.

More on the stated premise:

But creating a 21st-century regulatory system is about more than which rules to add and which rules to subtract. As the executive order I am signing makes clear, we are seeking more affordable, less intrusive means to achieve the same ends—giving careful consideration to benefits and costs. This means writing rules with more input from experts, businesses and ordinary citizens. It means using disclosure as a tool to inform consumers of their choices, rather than restricting those choices. And it means making sure the government does more of its work online, just like companies are doing.

Again, wonderful words (“more affordable, less intrusive” and more choice instead of “restricting those choices”) in an op/ed, but I have to say despite Obama’s claim this has been the aim of his administration the last two years, I’d dispute that.  Look at the route the EPA is taking right now in terms of trying to impose a regulatory regime on greenhouse gases.  Or how the Interior Department has unilaterally blocked oil and gas exploration. 

Certainly simplifying the regulatory regime, removing conflicting and overlapping rules, eliminating redundant reporting requirements and moving much of what can be done on-line to that venue would help.  But while that may make things more understandable and less onerous to do, it doesn’t really mean that intrusive regulation is going to go away or even be lessened. 

We’re back to how you define such regulation and what level of intrusiveness you believe is too much.  There’s no doubt that the Obama administration believes in a level of intrusion far greater than do most on the right.  An example of the difference can be found in the article itself:

One important example of this overall approach is the fuel-economy standards for cars and trucks. When I took office, the country faced years of litigation and confusion because of conflicting rules set by Congress, federal regulators and states.

The EPA and the Department of Transportation worked with auto makers, labor unions, states like California, and environmental advocates this past spring to turn a tangle of rules into one aggressive new standard. It was a victory for car companies that wanted regulatory certainty; for consumers who will pay less at the pump; for our security, as we save 1.8 billion barrels of oil; and for the environment as we reduce pollution.

Of course on the other side of that are those saying “since when is it a function of government to decide what gas mileage a car must get?”  The entire premise that it is a function of government is built on belief in a “justified” level of intrusion far beyond that which any Constitutional scholar would or could objectively support (that’s assuming he is a scholar and an honest one).  In fact the example perfectly states the obvious difference between big government advocates and small government advocates.  BGA’s think it is government’s job to dictate such things – that it is a function of government to do so.  SGAs believe it is the market’s job to dictate such things and that government shouldn’t be involved in these sorts of things.

So in essence, while the Obama op/ed has all the proper buzz words to attempt to sell it as a pro-business, small government move, it is in fact simply a restatement of an old premise that essentially says “government belongs in the areas it is now, we just need to clean it up a little”.

This really isn’t about backing off, it’s about cleaning up.  It isn’t about letting the market work, it’s about hopefully making government work better.  And while Obama claims to want to inform us about our choices rather than restricting them, I’ll still be unable to buy a car that doesn’t meet government standards on gas mileage even if I want one.

Now that may not seem like something most of us would want – few if any of us want bad gas mileage and the cost it brings – but it does illustrate the point that government regulation really isn’t about providing choice at all, it is and always will be about limiting them.  And all the smooth talking in the world doesn’t change that.   It’s the nature of the beast.

So when you hear wonderful things like this…

Our economy is not a zero-sum game. Regulations do have costs; often, as a country, we have to make tough decisions about whether those costs are necessary. But what is clear is that we can strike the right balance. We can make our economy stronger and more competitive, while meeting our fundamental responsibilities to one another.

…just remember the reality of regulation and understand that all the great sounding words you hear coming from the administration about regulatory overhaul are most likely based on a completely different premise than the right has.   And as all of us have learned from the 2 years in which this administration has been in power, never, ever, ever just go by what they say they’re going to do.  Always judge them on what they actually do, because rarely do they ever do what they say in speeches or op/eds like this.



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25 Responses to Just words? Obama on a “21st Century regulatory” regime

  • We Government can make our economy stronger and more competitive, while meeting our fundamental responsibilities to one another attempting to choose winners and losers in accordance with our political beliefs.

    Fixed it for them.

  • The United States needs a Constitutional Amendment that limits the Federal Government’s ability to tax and spend on functions included in the enumerated powers, prohibits forced redistribution of wealth and bans unfunded Federal mandates.
    The Congressional Review Act gives a simple majority in both houses a veto over executive orders.  Reid can’t block a CRA vote.  Kay Bailey Hutchinson has already warned Obama about using the EPA to invoke Cap & Trade be EO.

  • change “tax and spend on functions”  to “tax and spend to functions..”

  • I wonder who in business is such a Windsor as to swallow this, and spend a thin dime on it?

  • “So, in duh interest of, youse know, efficiency, we’ze ain’t gonna send Johnny duh Fish around to collect $50 from youse every week.  Instead, he’ll come around to collect $225 at duh end of every month.  Kapish?”

    Don2 also hits the nail on the head: The Dear Golfer and his goons have showed (notably in the car industry takeover) that they are all about using regulations and “the law” to variously punish and reward.  So, when he says that businesses profit by “regulatory certainty”, I suggest that the “certainty” is knowing that, to do business in America, they have to “do business” with the regime.

    That’s the Chicago Way.

  • The only thing I’m interested in from this administration is moving it closer to the door, with its bags packed. It has already laid in a generation’s worth of damage to the economy and it wants to talk about regulatory relief? Try jumping out of Air Force One and watch the relief on the way down.

  • You all realize that you’re engaging in inflammatory hate rhetoric here, don’t you?

  • I don’t doubt that there are some lefties who agree that regulation is often unnecessary and onerous.  The problem is that they reflexively support a big and centralized government solution every-time.  They never seem to connect the dots.

    A good example of this is the idiot left wing journalist Sam Donaldson.  He spent nearly a decade on a TV news program in which each week he would discover some misuse, waste or overreach by government. But he never ever stopped supporting big government. He never realized that the one is caused by the other.

    • Something to feel extra good about …

      WE did it. For once, we acted collectively, as humans, huddled together on a fragile planet, rather than as selfish individuals. And we did it: we beat global warming. So now let’s move on. According to the Bureau of Meteorology, 2010 was Australia’s coldest year since 2001. Since logic tells us the planet can’t be getting hotter and colder at the same time, we can confidently pronounce global warming dead, buried and comprehensively beaten. This victory happened because individuals pulled together, within nations, and then the nations of the world themselves pulled together. Meetings were held in places such Kyoto. Rousing speeches were made by world leaders. People clapped and felt good about themselves. Documents were signed.
      Clearly, with each meeting, each speech, each inked treaty, global warming was pushed back.

      Obviously, this clears the way for President Obama’s “21st Century regulatory” regime.   And a special congratulations to all the non-participants.

  • So, at the two year mark, Obama wakes up and realizes that maybe, just maybe, the government does a lot of things that hurt job growth. Well, I have a few questions about that.

    Assuming he’s sincere, can anyone, leftist or otherwise, explain why he didn’t so something like this the month he took office? Or the month after that? Or any of the 22 other months he could have done it?

    Was Obama so clueless about the role of government that he didn’t realize this two years ago?

    Why in the world should we think this is anything but a head fake to reposition after seeing his party get pounded in the election?

    Hey, I’d love to see him do something of consequence in this area. I want to see overweening government reined in by any means possible. But, given Obama’s history, the probability that this is just a cynical attempt to gain some rhetorical points outweighs the probability that he’s sincere by at least a hundred to one. And, even if there is some sincerity mixed in somewhere, the probability that his collectivist mental models can help him do productive decision making about regulation and business lies somewhere between neglible and zero.

    • I say it is nothing but theater.  Of course, we can watch carefully and see…
      But I remember  what the man says, and I remember his multiple claims that he supports capitalism.  And what he did to show the opposite truth.

    • If I learned anything about Obama is that he says one thing and does the opposite.  His statement has spin built in.

      For example, an issue with regulations that are interfering with jobs to Obama could mean that something needs more inspectors hired to ensure companies are living up to regulation xyz.  And if there isn’t a regulation xyz to justify inspectors, he’ll make one. 

    • Why in the world should we think this is anything but a head fake to reposition after seeing his party get pounded in the election?
      It’s right out of the Clinton playbook.
      It is as predictable as an empty backfield on third and long.  Expect much more of this.
      He’ll either go long, or dump it underneath and hope for the best.

      • Maybe like Gitmo, he is promising this, but in 1 year, he will come back and say we can’t change a thing.

  • “Strke the right balance”?

    With what ? a 2 x 4 ??
    That seems to be the only thing that would really help.

  • The reason Obama’s effort is doomed to failure (even putting aside the issue of whether or not he means business) is that a lot of the duplicative and onerous regulation is the result of laws, duly passed by Congress, and cannot be rolled back by executive order without serious executive overreach.  Case in point: CPSIA.  One of the primary criticisms of CPSIA is that it forces the CPSC to abandon risk-based approaches and enforce recalls solely based on objective lead levels.  So the toy box covered in lead-soaked paint is treated the same as the Barbie doll with a dot of paint in its eye that has 1 ppm over the lead limit.  A review of consumer product regulations would turn up that little nugget of fact, but there would be nothing Obama could do about it because it’s in the law, and only Congress can change the law.
    I’ll believe Obama’s serious about streamlining regulations when he gets Congress to introduce his first streamlining BILL.  He can start with the 1099 thing, that was in the health care law.