President Obama Promises to Adopt Only Good Regulations


How many regulations are enough?

Earlier this week, President Barack Obama issued a new executive order commanding the federal bureaucracy to eliminate bad regulations and adopt only good ones. As he explained in a Wall Street Journal op/ed:

…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.

But as usual with the president, what he gives with his right hand, he takes back with his left. While damning the effects of burdensome regulations, the president had to take credit for imposing new good regulations:

…our efforts over the past two years to modernize our regulations have led to smarter—and in some cases tougher—rules to protect our health, safety and environment. Yet according to current estimates of their economic impact, the benefits of these regulations exceed their costs by billions of dollars.

In fact, the only regulation that the president cited in his op/ed as being "just plain dumb" was an Environmental Protection Agency requirement that companies treat saccharin like a dangerous chemical. And as for federal regulations being cost-effective, is it any wonder that by some miracle most of them are found to be OK since generally those analyses are done by federal agencies themselves or by contractors hired for the purpose?

In any case, even before the president signed his new executive order, the super-efficient bureaucrats over at the EPA have already apparently done a review of the agency's new greenhouse gas regulations. As The Hill reports:

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is "confident" it will not have to alter current or pending environmental regulations, including upcoming climate rules, as part of the new regulatory review framework President Obama outlined Tuesday.

"EPA is confident that our recent and upcoming steps to address GHG emissions under the Clean Air Act comfortably pass muster under the sensible standards the president has laid out," an EPA official told The Hill in a statement Tuesday.

Policy analyst Sterling Burnett over at the free market think tank, the National Center for Policy Analysis, writes in the vein of Claude Rains as Captain Renault in Casablanca that he is "shocked, shocked" [YouTube] to discover that a federal agency finds its regulations are cost-effective and helpful to business:

I was shocked, shocked I say, to find that a regulatory agency would find that none of its current or proposed rules unnecessarily burdens the economy or hurts job retention or growth. … After all, what agency is going to say, "yeah, we were wrong, these rules don't work, they produce more harm than they prevent," or "Sure we're in a recession, and sure these rules won't do any good [let's say, for example, in preventing climate change], and sure there are going to be enormous costs but the country should adopt the regulations anyway – at least we'll look like we are doing something."

That's about right.

President Obama has mastered the art of vacuously promising to consider all "good ideas." The problem is that he thinks that he already has all the good ideas and most of them entail ever more government intrusion into the lives of Americans.