"The welfare of humanity is always the alibi of tyrants" - Albert Camus

Friday, January 21, 2011

Obama The Deregulator?

Not in your lifetime!  Sometimes it is sufficient to barely scratch the surface to smell the stench of a rotting carcass - in this case the notion Obama tried to sell in this week's WSJ op-ed piece titled "Toward a 21st-Century Regulatory System" that he, in his own words, "intends to root out regulations that conflict, that are not worth the cost, or that are just plain dumb."  And just to show that he was serious, he signed an executive order calling for a regulatory system in which a balance is stuck between the protection of public health and welfare and the promotion of economic growth and innovation, which, taken together with his administration's track record over the past two years, goes to show that this latest stint is as phony as the smile on his (and Michele's) face.

Remember the article that appeared in new York Times back in May, touting that with Obama, regulations were back in fashion?  In fact, the flurry of activity in generating new regulations has been unprecedented in recent years.  White House has been busy championing the pettiest of regulations as an ethical imperative.  Over the last 25 years, administrations of both parties average between 30 and 40 major regulations (those affecting the economy by $100 million or more) each year. The Obama administration created 59 such regulations in 2009 and 62 in 2010. The 2,300-page financial regulation bill calls for 11 federal agencies to write 243 new rules. ObamaCare itself includes more than 1,000 instructions for new regulations.

The tried and true strategy of rule making by fiat (when the normal legislative course fails) is evident in all sorts of areas from environment to communications.  Lets revisit some:

Right now, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is drafting carbon rules to force on states, even though a similarly torturous 2,000 pages on a cap-and-trade scheme intending to make power more expensive was rejected.  EPA plans begin enforcing the so-called “Tailoring Rule” a regulatory scheme that amounts to a back-door Cap-and-Trade bill, effectively limiting the amount of greenhouse gases released by a number of American industries that the EPA considers “heavy polluters.”

The EPA has also been using backdoor methods to impose regulations on coal. Just a week ago, the EPA revoked a permit issued three years ago for a  coal mine in West Virginia, bringing mining there to a standstill under the guise of the Clean Water Act.

Ignoring the lengthy record of pff-shore drilling completely, the Obama administration seems to have used BP’s Gulf disaster to end offshore drilling in the Gulf altogether. The Wall Street Journal points out that, although the official moratorium on offshore drilling ended months ago, the Administration has issued only two new permits, a decline of 88% from the historical average. The Energy Information Administration estimates this back-door regulatory initiative could cost the US almost a quarter million barrels of oil per day.

Also, the Federal Communications Commission is shoving (in a decision split by party lines) network neutrality (which is opposed by a 2:1 margin in public opinion polls) in the pipeline—again, bypassing Congress—so government can regulate the Internet for the first time in history, though the commissioners themselves admit that as of now, any need for rules are based on the what-ifs of their imaginations.

The rule allowing "end-of-life" counseling paid for by Medicare was inserted into ObamaCare after passage and only nixed after an ensuing outcry.  The president’s health care overhaul carved out unchecked bureaucratic powers for a group of fifteen presidential appointees whose recommendations for Medicare cuts become automatic law, without the meaningful consultation of Congress.

Last week, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) threatened legal action against four states for amending their constitutions to guarantee for secret ballot elections. Labor unions have campaigned for years to eliminate the measure — veiled in legislation known as the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) — but the NLRB’s recent actions suggest the measure will be implemented via regulatory fiat. 
And that is only a tiny fraction of the myriad of regulations administration has been busy making via those pesky, radical czars like Cass Sunstein that most everyone overlooked.

A little closer look at the new executive order reveals further the disingenuous nature of Mr. Obama's claims. 
Section 1 Paragraph B states that "This order is supplemental to and reaffirms the principles, structures, and definitions governing contemporary regulatory review that were established in Executive Order 12866 of September 30, 1993."  Yes, that would be the one issued by Bill Clinton who got the socially responsible regulatory ball rolling as evidenced by passages like "(3) select, in choosing among alternative regulatory approaches, those approaches that maximize net benefits (including potential economic, environmental, public health and safety, and other advantages; distributive impacts; and equity);" and "(5) identify and assess available alternatives to direct regulation, including providing economic incentives to encourage the desired behavior" and "(c) In applying these principles, each agency is directed to use the best available techniques to quantify anticipated
present and future benefits and costs as accurately as possible. Where appropriate and permitted by law, each agency may consider (and discuss qualitatively) values that are difficult or impossible to quantify, including equity, human dignity, fairness, and distributive impacts." 

And, finally,

“Scientific Integrity” (March 9, 2009), and its implementing guidance, each agency shall ensure the objectivity of any scientific and technological information and processes used to support the agency’s regulatory actions.

Coming from the same administartion which falsified the scientific consensus during the B.P. oil spill crisis, this is laughably disingenuous.

A Small Business Administration study says total regulatory costs that businesses (and thus consumers) pay amount to about $1.75 trillion—more than all collected personal income taxes. The Competitive Enterprise Institute found in this past year that the appearance of new rules—including "major" rules that cost more than $100 million annually—had dramatically accelerated.

Which isn't surprising.

When Obama was in a place of political comfort, the free market was a place of unhinged self-interest, unfairness, and misery. Nearly all of our troubles were portrayed as a case of regulatory neglect—and nearly every dilemma was met accordingly.

Nothing has changed but the political conditions for this ideologue of a charlatan sullying the White House.

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