Obama’s bo­gus rules

White House cov­ers up reg­u­la­tory ex­plo­sion

The Washington Times Daily - - Opinion -

The White House is push­ing the idea that Pres­i­dent Obama is a busi­ness-friendly reg­u­la­tion cut­ter. That’s about as likely as the works of Ayn Rand show­ing up in the first lady’s book-club read­ing list.

Nonethe­less, ad­min­is­tra­tion reg­u­la­tions czar Cass Sun­stein in­sisted Tues­day that “In terms of just the facts, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s is­sued fewer final rules in the first three years than the [Ge­orge W.] Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion did in the first three years.” Mr. Sun­stein was de­fend­ing against charges that in­creased fed­eral red tape has been ham­per­ing eco­nomic re­cov­ery. “In terms of net ben­e­fits, we’re way ahead,” he claimed.

While it is true that the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has is­sued fewer “final rules” than the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion over a com­pa­ra­ble pe­riod, this is a very nar­row met­ric that does not re­flect the scope or cost of Obama-era reg­u­la­tions. A closer ex­am­i­na­tion of the data dis­rupts the White House nar­ra­tive. Look­ing at the “sig­nif­i­cant reg­u­la­tory ac­tions” as spec­i­fied by Ex­ec­u­tive Or­der 12866 — those that have ma­jor im­pact — the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has out­paced the Bush team by 35 per­cent. Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion rules also tend to be longer and more complicated.

The scope of fed­eral rule-mak­ing is be­wil­der­ing. More than 700 new final rules have been pub­lished this year, and the Reg­u­la­tions.gov web­site lists 6,156 newly posted dic­tates of all kinds in the past 90 days. Busi­ness own­ers have no choice but to com­ply. In Jan­uary 2011, Mr. Obama is­sued an ex­ec­u­tive or­der seek­ing to weed out un­nec­es­sary or du­plica­tive reg­u­la­tions, and Mr. Sun­stein claims this re­view process has re­sulted in sav­ings to the econ­omy that “ex­ceeded $91 bil­lion.” Un­for­tu­nately, in the age of Obama, this is not a lot of money. A study by the Com­pet­i­tive En­ter­prise In­sti­tute found that fed­eral reg­u­la­tions cost con­sumers $1.2 tril­lion in 2007. Now the es­ti­mate has surged to about $1.7 tril­lion. It will take more than a few tweaks to stem the reg­u­la­tory ti­dal wave.

The elec­tion-year drive to por­tray Mr. Obama as a friend of busi­ness ig­nores the fact that many of the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s most oner­ous new rules have been pushed off un­til af­ter Novem­ber. Most Oba­macare im­ple­men­ta­tion has yet to be­gin, and the pol­i­tics of the health care de­ba­cle are so bad that Mr. Obama won’t even talk about what once was her­alded as his “sig­na­ture leg­isla­tive achieve­ment.” Things would have been even worse had the White House suc­ceeded in en­act­ing other fa­vorite pro­pos­als such as “cap-and-trade.” Had that been passed, the dis­rup­tions and reg­u­la­tory bur­dens on the econ­omy would have been in­cal­cu­la­ble.

Mr. Sun­stein is fight­ing the per­cep­tion that Mr. Obama is a true be­liever in per­va­sive fed­eral mi­cro­man­age­ment. He is com­bat­ing the wide­spread no­tion that the White House thinks there is no corner of Amer­i­can so­ci­ety that would not ben­e­fit from more reg­u­la­tion, more gov­ern­ment mind­ing, more nanny-state med­dling. Un­for­tu­nately for Mr. Sun­stein, all this is true.

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