Obama Now a Regulation Slayer? Hardly!

-By Warner Todd Huston

On Tuesday, President Obama had an op ed published in the Wall Street Journal. In it Obama insisted that our economy has been hurt by “unreasonable burdens on business” and that the regulatory sector had “gotten out of balance.” He promised that he’d make efforts to trim away regulations costly to business. While the sentiment is certainly a good one, it strains credulity to imagine that Barack Obama would be the one to make those cuts especially in light of the huge regulatory state that Obama has spent enlarging at every opportunity over the last two years.

To be sure Obama needs to gain the confidence of the business community. After all, as far s the business sector is concerned Obama has considered them his number one enemy since he began running for president back in 2006. The economy has stalled precisely because everyone is afraid of what punishment via his regulatory powers that Obama will next mete out to them.

But Obama claims he’s going to change all that and just in time for him to ramp up his 2012 reelection campaign, too. He’s signed an Executive Order, he says, in order to “strike the right balance” between regulation and business success.

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 And it orders a government-wide review of the rules already on the books to remove outdated regulations that stifle job creation and make our economy less competitive.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.

And if you believe that Obama is serious about this I do believe that there is a certain bridge in Brooklyn you might be able purchase.

Many assume that new Chief of Staff Bill Daley had a lot to do with this new direction, but regardless of Daley’s influence Obama has been forced to appear to be driving to the center due to the shellacking he and his party took in November. But whatever his electoral motives it is pretty clear by his actions that he simply isn’t serious about trimming regulations to help business. To get a better idea of his actual desires one has but to look at his use of his power to regulate.

Since he took office President Obama has relied heavily on his powers to create regulations to push his left-wing agenda. In fact, one of his very first actions was to sign an Executive Order that forced all federal construction projects to suffer under union rules, union pay scales, and union benefit whether the companies involved in the projects were unionized or not — the order forced called Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) on all federal contracts.

In fact, just looking over the regulatory changes and the threats to do so implemented by the Obama Dept. of Labor alone reveals quite the opposite direction that Obama claimed he’d undertake with regulations in his Wall Street journal op ed. In two short years Obama has signed orders to force PLAs (as mentioned above), put limits on what business owners can say to employees about union elections, made it harder to fire incompetent government employees belonging to unions, forced business to hand out union information to employees, nullified union financial reporting rules to allow unions to more easily hide fraudulent expenditures, and just recently has insisted that the Dept. of Labor can sue any state that makes laws protecting the right of workers to have a secret ballot in union elections.

But we don’t have to restrict ourselves to Obama’s Dept. of Labor. Obama has used his powers to regulate to rewrite financial rules, banking regulations, forced General Motors into bankruptcy then imposed pennies-on-the-dollar settlements on its creditors while giving preference to the UAW, has used the Federal Communications Commission to take over the Internet, has used his Federal Drug Administration to eliminate certain drugs, and has pushed his Environmental Protection Agency to implement extreme environmental rules to emulate the sort of Cap and Trade laws he couldn’t get Congress to pass. And this is not to mention the 150 new federal regulatory agencies he created out of whole cloth with Obamacare.

Yet, with this extremely high volume of new regulations constantly churning out of the Obama administration — something that commentator David Limbaugh has called an administrative tyranny — we are now expected to believe that he intends to cut back on them?

Of course, the idea in and of itself is a good one. For years pro-growth, business friendly advocates have been saying that our regulatory scheme is oppressive and is destroying our ability to compete internationally. Senator Mark Warner has added his voice to approval for this idea though Senator Warner insists we can go further.

“I spent 20 years in the business world, and I know that any company that does not periodically review its operations or look for ways to improve its procedures will not survive very long. Efforts to apply more common-sense to our regulatory approach can go a long way toward addressing the uncertainty that has kept the U.S. business community from participating more fully in our nation’s economic recovery,” Senator Warner said.

“The regulatory framework announced by the White House today is a promising first step to adopt a more rational approach to government oversight, but we can and should go even further. I have spoken with OMB Director Jack Lew about these proposals, and he shares my view that existing regulations must be reviewed from time-to-time to determine if they are still necessary and crafted effectively. If they are not, they should be changed or repealed.

William O’Keefe agrees and offers a first step toward progress.

As a first step, the President could direct the Department of Interior to expedite issuance of permits for drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and to remove the recently issued ban on offshore drilling off of the East Coast. That action would have a big impact on unemployment in Gulf coast states and would send a signal that the U.S. plans to exercise more control over its energy future. Although the White House is a big proponent of “green” energy, it needs to acknowledge that since these fuels are a long way from being commercially viable, fossil energy will continue to provide the main source of power for our economy for decades to come.

While all agencies need to do a better job of avoiding regulatory overkill, EPA currently threatens to have the biggest impact on our economic recovery and job creation. Its proposed rules on boilers, stationary sources, and ambient air quality standards offer compelling evidence that it is out of control and pursuing an ideological agenda without regard to economic consequences. Those proposals are already having a chilling effect on investments. President Obama should direct EPA to suspend all pending actions to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, including plans to issue another set of CAFE regulations to mandate a fleet average of 45-62 miles per gallon.

These moves and others should be taken but no one should go into this deal assuming that President Obama has good intentions. It is far more likely that his only real goal is to get reelected. It is highly doubtful that Obama has any real desire to help the business sector. After all, his entire history has been as an enemy to business. From his earliest days until Monday, Barack Obama has been the antitheses of a business friendly politician.
“The only end of writing is to enable the reader better to enjoy life, or better to endure it.”
–Samuel Johnson

Warner Todd Huston is a Chicago based freelance writer. He has been writing opinion editorials and social criticism since early 2001 and before that he wrote articles on U.S. history for several small American magazines. His political columns are featured on many websites such as Andrew Breitbart’s BigGovernment.com, BigHollywood.com, and BigJournalism.com, as well as RightWingNews.com, RightPundits.com, CanadaFreePress.com, StoptheACLU.com, AmericanDaily.com, among many, many others. Mr. Huston is also endlessly amused that one of his articles formed the basis of an article in Germany’s Der Spiegel Magazine in 2008.

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