It’s the People Critiquing the Ever-Expanding Regulatory State

By October 21, 2010Energy, Regulations

OMB Watch’s new report, “The Obama Approach To Public Protection: Rulemaking,” is a thorough piece of research compiled to support the expansion of the regulatory state and its control of economic activity. As is typical, the advocacy group questions the motives of those who disagree with it. 

From page 3:

This report was written in a climate in which conservatives and business leaders are criticizing the Obama administration for rapidly expanding the regulatory state, but painting the administration with such broad strokes misleads the public. The criticism is tactical, led by those who simply oppose any regulations, particularly those targeting businesses, and it obscures a more complex record.

The criticism is tactical? No, that’s not right.

Much of the critique of the growth of federal regulations is philosophical: A larger, more costly federal government wielding greater regulatory power means less freedom. 

Company owners object on the basis of straight-forward economic self-interest: These new regulations will cost my business thousands (millions, tens of millions) of dollars, and I can’t afford that. That’s not tactical, that’s rational. 

Trade associations criticize new regulations on economic and competitive grounds: These rules will add unnecessary costs that will make this industry sectory less successful and damage its ability to compete in the global economy. 

People who have industry experience or practical, technical knowledge may raise these legitimate points: This won’t work! It’s like you don’t know anything about the real world. 

Examples of each of these criticisms will be different. Business leaders may object to one new regulatory proposal more strenously than another because the first one is MUCH, MUCH WORSE than the second. If you want to characterize that as tactical, well, convicted. 

As for OMB Watch’s claim about the “climate in which conservatives and business leaders are criticizing the Obama administration for rapidly expanding the regulatory state,” here’s a letter signed by 106 House members in August to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, strenuously objecting to the EPA’s proposed rule to further limit emissions from industrial boilers (known as the Boiler MACT rule). Of those signers, 45 were Democrats, 61 were Republicans. These are not “conservatives and business leaders,” they are the elected representatives of the U.S. citizenry, and they span a broad ideological range. 

The critique offered by these U.S. Representatives:

As our nation struggles to recover from the current recession, we are deeply concerned that the potential impact of pending Clean Air Act regulations could be unsustainable for U.S. manufacturing and the high-paying jobs it provides. As the national unemployment rate hovers around 10 percent, and federal, state, and municipal finances are in dire straits, hundreds of thousands of manufacturing workers have lost their jobs in the past year alone. The flow of capital for new investment and hiring is still seriously restricted, and could make or break the viability of continued operations. Both small and large businesses are vulnerable to extremely costly regulatory burdens, as well as municipalities, universities, federal facilities, and commercial entities. While we support efforts to address serious health threats from air emissions, we also believe that regulations can be crafted in a balanced way that sustains both the environment and jobs.

To make the case for a bigger, more intrusive, costly and powerful federal regulatory leviathan, OMB Watch turns to a straw man argument, i.e., “Our critics are just conservatives and business leaders making tactical arguments.” But the criticism of specific regulations and the Obama Administration’s aggressive expansion of the regulatory state in general is substantive, detailed, multifaceted and fully aware of what the activists would obscure as a “complex record.”

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