Obama Orders Regulation Review To Boost Business, Economy

President Obama greets business leaders on the White House campus, Dec. 9, 2010. i i

President Obama greets business leaders on the White House campus, Dec. 9, 2010. Pablo Martinez Monsivais/ASSOCIATED PRESS hide caption

itoggle caption Pablo Martinez Monsivais/ASSOCIATED PRESS
President Obama greets business leaders on the White House campus, Dec. 9, 2010.

President Obama greets business leaders on the White House campus, Dec. 9, 2010.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/ASSOCIATED PRESS

In another attempt to better insulate himself against Republican charges that he's anti-business and a devotee of heavy handed federal rules, President Obama has ordered his administration to review regulations and shed those that are unnecessary.

The president outlined why he signed the executive order in an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal Tuesday.

An excerpt:

This order requires that federal agencies ensure that regulations protect our safety, health and environment while promoting economic growth. And it orders a government-wide review of the rules already on the books to remove outdated regulations that stifle job creation and make our economy less competitive. It's a review that will help bring order to regulations that have become a patchwork of overlapping rules, the result of tinkering by administrations and legislators of both parties and the influence of special interests in Washington over decades.

Lest his supporters who believe it's the job of an activist and robust federal government to create and police rules meant to protect consumers and workers think Obama has morphed into Ronald Reagan, he seeks to reassure them.

Where necessary, we won't shy away from addressing obvious gaps: new safety rules for infant formula; procedures to stop preventable infections in hospitals; efforts to target chronic violators of workplace safety laws. But we are also making it our mission to root out regulations that conflict, that are not worth the cost, or that are just plain dumb.

For instance, the FDA has long considered saccharin, the artificial sweetener, safe for people to consume. Yet for years, the EPA made companies treat saccharin like other dangerous chemicals. Well, if it goes in your coffee, it is not hazardous waste. The EPA wisely eliminated this rule last month.

This will probably come as news to most people who've been ingesting saccharin for years that the EPA regulated the compound though it was dangerous. The example strongly makes Obama's point that some rules just violate the common-sense test.

Then Obama gets to the nub of the issue, as he sees it. Mirroring the larger argument he has made during his presidency that the debate shouldn't be about big or small government but about smart government, he writes:

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.

Expect a continuing stream of such announcements from the Obama White House as it tries to rebut Republican charges and general suspicions that he is anti-business. Improving relations with the business community is one of the jobs of William Daley, the new White House chief of staff and former JP Morgan Chase official.

Republicans countered that Obama is a Johnny come lately on the issue of curing regulatory bloat:

From a statement by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor:

“More than a year ago when our country was still struggling from the recent financial crisis, I unveiled the ‘No Cost Jobs Plan’ aimed at spurring the economy and creating jobs by putting in place common sense policy proposals. One of the chief planks of my plan was to address the out-of-control and costly bureaucratic rules and regulations that bog down businesses small and large, so that they’re free to grow and create jobs.

“Today’s Executive Order from President Obama shows that he heard the same message I did in the last election – that Americans are sick and tired of Washington’s excessive overreach and overspending. While I applaud his efforts on this new Executive Order today, we must go further. That’s why I am relaunching the ‘No Cost Jobs Plan’ today – a plan we presented to the President and his party last year. Interestingly, though he and his Administration didn’t embrace it last year, we have noticed pieces of the plan being incorporated by the President including trade agreements and rolling back barriers to job creation found in the regulatory system.

To a certain extent, Democratic presidents tend to be viewed warily by the business community partly because Democrats in the White House have tended to champion regulations meant to protect consumers and organized labor.

In Obama's case, that suspicion was heightened by his lack of a lengthy track record on business issues when he became president.

His criticism of the insurance industry during his fight for the health care overhaul, his castigation of Wall Street, and his support for energy legislation that would have increased costs to American businesses under a cap and trade system all added to concerns in the business community about his administration.

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