WSJ: The Value of Susan Dudley’s Appointment

By April 6, 2007General

With a pointed editorial today (subscription only), The Wall Street Journal pops the balloon full of gaseous outrage from the left over President Bush’s appointment of Susan Dudley to head the Office of Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). Public Citizen’s horrified leader, Joan Claybrook, objects to Dudley because “the free market [is] her guiding light.”

In the left’s economic universe, a regulation is, of its nature, going to produce only benefit; consideration of costs is so much background noise. That mindset, however, can lead to multiplying rules of the command-and-control variety that in time can derail the economy. There’s a big difference between requiring reductions in radiation exposure from X-ray equipment ($23,000 per life saved) and radiation emission controls at uranium fuel cycle facilities ($34 billion per life-year saved). To escape these effects, every President since Jimmy Carter has supported weighing cost versus benefits.

The real motive for the smear campaign against Ms. Dudley is to paint the Bush Presidency as captive to industries running rampant over consumers, workers and the environment. George Bush? Regulatory expert James Gattuso of the Heritage Foundation reports that “Rhetoric to the contrary, regulatory burdens have actually increased, not decreased, under Bush.” Unlike under Ronald Reagan, “very few, if any, regulations have been repealed.”

So no, Susan Dudley’s appointment will not ruin the air and water or put workers at risk. What she will do is help ensure that the thousands of new regulations Congress and federal agencies engulf the economy with each year don’t put prosperity at risk. Unless a belief in prosperity is also now a disqualification from public office.

You detect the same Weltanschauung — regulation is by definition only good and must never be analyzed — in much of the media coverage of Dudley’s appointment. Marketplace is a public radio business program with a strong anti-business tilt. Its headline on a Dudley story? “Anti-regulation champion to head regulatory agency.” Sheesh.