Though regulations surge, not all, says president, are bad

Bob Tippee

To expressions of concern that the US faces, in one business leader’s words, a “regulatory tsunami,” President Barack Obama responds, “Not all regulations are bad.”

Obama smacked that straw man during a peace foray Feb. 7 at the US Chamber of Commerce in Washington, DC.

The chamber has steadfastly criticized the administration’s urge to regulate. Chamber President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue used the “tsunami” metaphor in a Jan. 11 speech in which he decried “an unprecedented explosion of new regulatory activity.”

Donohue pointed to:

• Health care reform, which “creates 159 new agencies, commissions, panels, and other bodies” and “grants extraordinary powers to the Department of Health and Human Services to redefine health care as we know it.”

• Financial reform enshrined in measures such as legislation enacted last year that “contains 259 mandated rulemakings, another 188 suggested rulemakings, 63 reports, and 59 studies” and a Securities and Exchange Commission initiative that “expand[s] the ability of special-interest shareholders such as unions to exploit proxy access rules.”

• “Unprecedented” labor market regulatory activity and case law changes. “Over 100 such efforts are under way covering compensation, contracting, leave, ergonomics, workplace safety, hiring and firing, and union organizing,” Donohue said.

• The Environmental Protection Agency’s regulation of greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act and “342 rulemakings in various stages of development and completion” in other areas. “Of these, 30 are deemed ‘economically significant’—each with a cost to our economy of $100 million or more.”

Now that Republicans have reclaimed the House and gained strength in the Senate, Donohue added, “The administration is likely to turn increasingly to the regulatory agencies.”

The chamber president didn’t say all regulations are bad. He said the administration is generating too many of them, too quickly. And, yes, too many of them are bad.

“Not every regulation is burdensome on business,” Obama assured the chamber. “A lot of the regulations…are things that all of us welcome in our lives.”

What a dodge.

(Online Feb. 11, 2011; author’s e-mail:

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