An Obama course correction on regulation?

by Walter Olson on January 19, 2011

I’ve got a post up at Cato at Liberty expressing some doubts about the President’s new talk of smarter regulation. Stuart Shapiro points out that the “only truly new thing in” the regulatory reform package, the greater publicity that will be given to enforcement records, “could be somewhat revolutionary in its ability to force regulatory compliance.” From a perspective diametrically opposed to mine, Rena Steinzor confirms that the only example Obama gave of actual excessive regulation reversed on his watch — the former classification of saccharin as hazardous waste — is of at most trivial significance (& welcome Matthew Continetti/Weekly Standard, Frum Forum, Aaron @ Patterico, Point of Law, AllahPundit, ShopFloor readers).

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{ 6 comments }

1 Aaron Worthing 01.19.11 at 9:03 am

its sort of like what i said about the debt. Obama will propose some niddling change there, that will at best reduce the deficit a little–that is, reduce the rate of increase of our debt. and then the biased media will declare him a deficit hawk.

Obama will do something similar here. he will make a negligible cut in regulations and will be praised as a deregulator.

Btw, I have similar thoughts over at patterico’s as a guest blogger. i jokingly call it “smart regulation” because it sounds a lot like “smart diplomacy,” and i expect it to work about equally well.

2 GregS 01.19.11 at 12:10 pm

I agree with Aaron. This is just meaningless posturing, where Obama’s administration will cut a handful of insignificant regulations while introducing hundreds of new ones, all so he can pose as a deregulator in the next election.

What interests me is the hostile reaction of liberals to Obama’s proposal. Imagine that Obama was serious about this. Isn’t that a good thing, even from the liberal’s perspective? Even if you believe in large, activist government, don’t you want it to be effective? And doesn’t part of “being effective” include reviewing the rules you currently enforce to remove or modify ones that are not working, or are counterproductive, or obsolete? If you believe in the power of government, why would you want government agencies to be wasting their time and resources on enforcing rules that make no sense or that undermine the agency’s intended goals? It’s almost as if those liberals are not concerned with practical results but are motivated by hatred of business and are only interested in putting as much of a regulatory burden as possible on it.

3 LibertyAtStake 01.19.11 at 2:05 pm

It’s a coordinated political head fake in the bigger context of the administration’s governing strategy for the next two years. BHO will direct our eyes off the ball – while unaccountable bureaucrats, czars, and apparatchiks squeeze every ounce of mileage they can out of the regulatory agencies in the cause of the Progressive agenda (now that the legislative avenue is blocked for them). The House investigative committees need to keep their dockets full in the 112th.

4 kimsch 01.19.11 at 7:57 pm

I thought that CPSIA should be the first to go, but heck, it’s got “safety” and “improvement” in the title and “it’s for the children” so no way it will go… too bad.

5 Walter Olson 01.19.11 at 8:09 pm

Aaron’s posts at Patterico are here:

http://patterico.com/2011/01/18/obama-announces-“smart”-regulation/

http://patterico.com/2011/01/19/more-on-obama’s-“smart-regulation”-op-ed/

He makes some particularly good points about the issue of hospital infection control.

On CPSIA, it should be noted that the CPSC, like the SEC and various other agencies, is a so-called independent agency rather than under direct presidential control, so it doesn’t get covered by an executive order. This is not a matter of Obama’s deliberately excluding it from the regulatory review, just the way the authority chart works.

6 kimsch 01.20.11 at 2:02 am

Walter,
Then we have to work on Congress to get rid of the monster that is CPSIA…

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