Cass Sunstein Archives - Shopfloor

Oversight Committee Examines Regulatory Excess

By | Regulations | No Comments

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee today held a hearing to examine the impact of federal regulations on businesses and jobs.  You can view Chairman Issa’ s opening statement here.

The hearing comes alongside a new report from the Committee entitled “How the Administrative State has Broken President Obama’s Promise of Regulatory Reform.”  The report sheds light on exactly how big the federal regulatory state is.  For example, it notes that “proposed rules have increased from 2,044 in 2009 to 2,439 in 2010.”   And, “the Obama Administration has imposed 75 new major regulations costing over $38 billion annually.”

And it’s only going to get worse: “The number of full time regulatory employees is expected to reach an all-time high of 291,676 in 2012″ and ” [O]f the 4,257 regulatory actions in the pipeline, 219 are considered economically significant, meaning they are estimated to impose a cost of $100 million or more on the economy.”

The full report is available here and video of today’s hearing should be online soon here.

After delay, Preliminary Recommendations to Reduce Regulations Released

By | Energy, Regulations | One Comment

On January 18, 2011, President Obama signed Executive Order 13563. The order states, “Our regulatory system must protect public health, welfare, safety, and our environment while promoting economic growth, innovation, competitiveness, and job creation.” While it is positive to see the President concerned about promoting economic growth, we hope he follows through on this. There has been much talk of relieving regulatory burdens and streamlining the process for domestic energy production, but no action has followed. The time for talk is over, we need action now to help create jobs and maintain manufacturers global competitiveness

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Cass Sunstein, the President’s Regulatory Czar stated, “We are taking immediate steps to save individuals, businesses, and state and local governments hundreds of millions of dollars every year in regulatory burdens.” He also added:

“The initial review announced today is just the start of an ongoing process. Our goal is to change the regulatory culture of Washington by constantly asking what’s working and what isn’t. To achieve that goal, we need to obtain real-world evidence and data. We also need to draw on the experience and wisdom of the American people—which is why the president has put an emphasis on asking the public for their comments, ideas and suggestions. And so, before today’s plans are finalized, the public will weigh in.”

View the full piece from Mr. Sunstein in the Wall Street Journal.

Mr. Sunstein also spoke at the American Enterprise Institute and on Capitol Hill yesterday.

Manufacturers hope that during this process, the EPA and the Administration take substantive steps to reduce the regulatory burden that is stifling job creation and job growth. At a time of high unemployment, the last thing manufacturers need to face are costly and burdensome regulations that prevent future investment, expansion and reduce their global competitiveness.

Update: Read the statement from the National Association of Manufacturers on the results of the review here.

House Hearing Examines President’s New Regulatory Approach

By | Regulations | One Comment

From the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee, “Chairmen Upton and Stearns welcome administration’s acknowledgment that federal regulations are harming nation’s economy, stifling our recovery.”

WASHINGTON, DC – On Wednesday, January 26, 2010, at 10:00 a.m. in Room 2123 of the Rayburn House Office Building, the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will hold a hearing entitled The Views of the Administration on Regulatory Reform. Chairman Fred Upton and Subcommittee Chairman Cliff Stearns look forward to discussing the Obama administration’s regulatory executive order and determining its impact on jobs and the economy. Upton and Stearns are especially concerned with the chilling effect unnecessary government mandates are having upon job growth.

The sole witness is Cass R. Sunstein, administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

The Hill (blog), “Republicans to hold oversight hearing on Obama’s regulatory review
The Weekly Standard, Fred Barnes, on the hearing as part of the Republicans’ oversight strategy, “In the Dock: Get ready for two years of Obama administration oversight by the House GOP

And, for a more thorough, conservative-minded examination of Cass Sunstein, his writings and his philosophy of government, we recommend The Claremont Review’s recent article, “A Czar is Born.” Post-modernism meets progressivism, author Joseph Postrell argues.

P.S. The Claremont Review has the best illustrations.

Circumnetting the President’s Executive Order on Regulations

By | Labor Unions, Regulations | One Comment

Federal News Radio’s report, “Obama’s regulatory reforms draw mixed reviews,” provides a thorough round-up of the reaction to President Obama’s new positioning on federal regulations, including the Executive Order, “Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review.” It’s informative to read the comments Cass Sunstein, the head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

“The Executive Order makes clear that the look back process will occur with full understanding of the agency’s priority settings and resource constraints in a tough budgetary environment. So we expect the agencies will take this process very seriously but do so in way that recognizes resources are not unlimited.”

Sunstein said agencies will have to find a way to do the look back based on the resources they have already.

“I don’t anticipate any additional budgetary assistance for the look back,” he said. “We do anticipate a rule of reason where agencies will be expected to make their own choices about how to balance the cost because in many of the agencies there either is some process of look back and because of all agencies there is considerable expertise about the existing set of programs, we don’t think this will require huge resources to be invested.”

Phew, exhaled the EPA officials. We have so many pending regulations that we really don’t have the budget and personnel to go back a look at the old ones. Carry on!

And at least one activist sees the new review process as an opportunity for MORE regulations. Gary Bass, head of OMBWatch, commented: “Bass said by looking back at existing regulations agencies may find not only outdated policies, but also gaps where new ones are needed.” Read More

Overregulation: EPA Excess, not Saccharine, is the Problem

By | General, Regulations | One Comment

From President Obama’s Wall Street Journal op-ed, “Toward a 21st-Century Regulatory System“:

[We] are also making it our mission to root out regulations that conflict, that are not worth the cost, or that are just plain dumb.

For instance, the FDA has long considered saccharin, the artificial sweetener, safe for people to consume. Yet for years, the EPA made companies treat saccharin like other dangerous chemicals. Well, if it goes in your coffee, it is not hazardous waste. The EPA wisely eliminated this rule last month.

Wall Street Journal editorial, “Obama’s Rules Revelation“:

One example Mr. Obama cited yesterday is a now-defunct EPA rule that treated saccharin like hazardous waste, as if the current problem is archaic rules. But growth isn’t lethargic because there are still colonial laws on the books about when livestock are allowed to graze on the village green. The real problems are those his own Administration and its allies have created—the regulatory blowout of the 111th Congress and the laws his appointees are now abusing to bypass democratic consent.

Jacob T. Levy, McGill University, “Cass Sunstein in the News“:

Note that Obama’s op-ed named just one example of overregulation, already repealed: the classification of saccharine as hazardous waste by the EPA. And it foresees new or stiffer “safety rules for infant formula; procedures to stop preventable infections in hospitals; efforts to target chronic violators of workplace safety laws.” The emphasis of the piece is hardly on any claim that in fact there is too much regulation in any area. The tone is generally one that says “we’ve been doing things basically right and now we will confirm that will a self-audit.”

From the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, a chart:

Read More

Let’s Be Cautious about Precaution in Chemical Reg Bill

By | Regulations | No Comments

From today’s Washington Post, “Lautenberg bill seeks to overhaul U.S. chemical laws“:

After a year of working with environmental groups, government regulators and the chemical industry, a leading advocate for chemical regulation has devised a plan to remake the nation’s chemical laws — a 34-year-old set of regulations that all players agree is outmoded and ineffective.

The plan, contained in legislation that Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) is set to file Thursday, would require manufacturers to prove the safety of chemicals before they enter the marketplace. That would be a significant departure from current laws, which allow chemicals to be used unless the federal government can prove they cause harm to health or the environment.

Sounds like the full-blown introduction of the regulatory philosophy embodied in the precautionary principle, i.e., the requirement that you prove a negative — no harm — before any new product can enter the market.

It’s a philosophy that leads to a stagnant marketplace, unnecessary costs, and more litigation. If the principle takes hold in regulation, the dynamic United States will become even more like Europe. As a wise man has written:

Over the coming decades, the increasingly popular “precautionary principle” is likely to have a significant impact on policies all over the world. Applying this principle could lead to dramatic changes in decision making. Possible applications include climate change, genetically modified food, nuclear power, homeland security, new drug therapies, and even war.

We argue that the precautionary principle does not help individuals or nations make difficult choices in a non-arbitrary way. Taken seriously, it can be paralyzing, providing no direction at all. In contrast, balancing costs against benefits can offer the foundation of a principled approach for making difficult decisions.

That’s Cass Sunstein, the abstract to his book, “The Precautionary Principle as a Basis for Decision Making.” Sunstein now holds the top regulatory review post in the Obama Administration, administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

Sunstein has written the single best newspaper column explaining why the precautionary principle is a bad idea. “Throwing precaution to the wind” appeared in the July 13, 2008, Boston Globe.

Why Wasn’t This in the Health Care Bill?

By | Health Care, Regulations | No Comments

CNSNews.com, April 8, “Sebelius: FDA Will Require Health Labels on Front of Food Packages“:

(CNSNews.com) — Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Kathleen Sebelius said today that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is developing a new regulation  that would require food manufacturers to display nutritional information on the front of packages.
This would mean that the front of a Wheaties box, for example, would display not only the smiling face of a famous athlete but also declare how many calories from fat are in each serving.
“Busy shoppers will be able to go into grocery stores and have some easy to understand information on the front of packages giving them quick data on what is a healthier choice,” said Sebelius at the U.S. Capitol

Busy shoppers are so busy, they cannot be expected to turn the box around and look on the backside!

In a fortuitous coincidence, The Weekly Standard’s cover story this week is “Nudge Nudge, Wink Wink,” with a secondary headline, “Behavioral economics—the governing theory of Obama’s nanny state.” The article explores the Obama Administration’s desire to move away from cost-benefit analysis in regulation, an approach advocated in Cass Sunstein and Richard’s Thaler’s “Nudge.” In the magazine, Andrew Ferguson writes: 

Just as Obama is a liberal Democrat who, his admirers insist, isn’t really a liberal Democrat, behavioral economics proposes government regulation that, behavioral economists insist, isn’t really regulation. Under the influence of libertarian paternalism, regulators abandon their old roles as mini-commissars and become “choice architects,” arranging the everyday choices that members of the public face in such a way that they’ll naturally do the right thing—eat well, conserve energy, save more, drive safely, floss. In the literature the unavoidable example of this involves cafeteria food. Customers in line are more likely to choose food displayed at eye level; this concept, called “salience,” comes to us from behavioral science lab work. A wised-up cafeteria operator who wants his customers to eat healthier foods—at a high school, for example—will give prominent place to fresh fruits in the dessert line and push the Boston Cream Pie to the back. The kids won’t be forced to choose the fruit; the pie will still be there, if their pudgy little arms can reach it. 

Sunstein is now the head of President Obama’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, the top regulatory review job in the Administration. Kathleen Sebelius, she’s head of the Department of Health and Human Services and its new Office of Salience Coordination.

More from CNSNews.com, and thanks to them for covering these issues, “Sebelius Says President Obama Has Instructed All Cabinet-Level Departments to Promote Public Health.”

Cass Sunstein Confirmed to Top Regulatory Post, 57-40

By | Regulations | No Comments

By a vote of 57-40, the Senate has voted to confirm Cass Sunstein as administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Office of Management and Budget.


We’ll post the roll call when it becomes available.

UPDATE: Here’s the roll call vote.

UPDATE (5:50 p.m.): Ah, now that he’s confirmed, the irrepressible Frank O’Donnell of Clean Air Watch can re-emerge to criticize him: “We hope that he won’t be an impediment, based on his past emphasis on cost-benefit analysis to the exclusion of other values. We hope he will look at other values, such as protecting the environment.”

Early on it was the left-leaning “consumer activist” and environmental groups who criticized Sunstein because he has written favorably on cost-benefit analysis. But they had been largely quiet since Glenn Beck took up his television cudgel against Sunstein based — loosely based — on his writings on animal rights and the Second Amendment.

As you can read in Senator Lieberman’s floor statement yesterday, the NAM, U.s. Chamber of Commerce and American Farm Bureau all thought Sunstein was a good nominee based on his views on regulation and acumen.

UPDATE (6 p.m.): Ah, more warm greetings from the left now that Sunstein’s been confirmed, this from an early and harsh critic, Rena I. Steinzor, a Maryland law professor and president of the Center for Progressive Reform. She writes at The Pump Handle blog, attacking the OIRA in a post:

We look forward to working with Cass Sunstein. And we also promise to stay in his face, making sure he remembers that his biggest challenge is to revive strong government protection of environmental quality, food, drug, and worker safety, and the control of climate change, not working to appease industry. We wish him luck and success.

In Support of Cass Sunstein for Regulatory Post

By | Regulations | No Comments

Prior to the 63-35 cloture vote on the nomination of Cass Sunstein to head the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, the leaders of the Senate committee who held his confirmation hearing spoke in praise of the nominee. We’ve uploaded the relevant section of The Congressional Record here.

Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, said:

Because Professor Sunstein is brilliant, creative, and prolific, he has written some things that are unconventional and, for some, controversial. I believe when asked about each of those matters he answered sincerely and fully and reassuringly.

For example, hunters were concerned about Professor Sunstein’s views on gun rights. He made very clear he believes the second amendment creates an individual right to possess guns for hunting and self-defense. To farmers and others concerned with his previous writings and comments on cruelty to animals, Professor Sunstein has said he would take no steps to promote litigation on behalf of animals, which some concluded was his position based on a provocative article he wrote, and that he has no plans, certainly, to regulate animal husbandry.

So this is a bright, thoughtful, creative man who, as a professor, has written some provocative, unconventional ideas. I suppose if one wanted to take advantage of them for one’s own purposes, to politicize, in some sense, or ideologize, in some sense, this nomination, one might seize on those. But at bottom, this is a person extraordinarily well qualified for this position.

Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), the ranking member, also found Sunstein well-qualified, and his former law student, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) spoke strongly in his favor.

Groups cited in his support were the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Farm Bureau and National Association of Manufacturers. Included in the record was the letter from the NAM’s Vice President for Infrastructure, Legal & Regulatory Policy, Rosario Palmieri:

DEAR CHAIRMAN LIEBERMAN AND RANKING MEMBER COLLINS: On behalf of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and the millions of Americans our members employ, I am writing to offer our support for the confirmation of Cass Sunstein to be Administrator of the Office of Information & Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) in the Office of Management & Budget. Thank you for the swift work of your Committee to report Professor Sunstein favorably to the full Senate.

The NAM has supported nominees to OIRA under both Republican and Democratic presidents. The office plays a crucial role in agency prioritization, paperwork reduction, and regulatory review. President Obama said that the office offers a “dispassionate and analytical `second opinion’ on agency actions.” We believe that function is especially crucial during the economic crisis we face and to preserve high wage jobs from being lost due to unnecessary or thoughtless government action.

Cass Sunstein, in particular, is deserving of confirmation because of his keen intellect, expertise in the fields of administrative and environmental law, and his commitment to fair and reasoned deliberation of issues that will come before him. Under an Administrator Sunstein, all sides will be given a fair hearing and a real opportunity to impact the final analysis of an issue.

We stand ready to assist in ensuring confirmation by the full Senate of Cass Sunstein.