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President Obama's proliferation of new regulations

Guest Column

 


Even though President Barack Obama has less than a year remaining in office, his administration is cranking out new government regulations at a record pace.

The rush reflects the President’s plan to use his final months to cement his domestic-policy legacy. Unfortunately, that process circumvents Congress, which is constitutionally charged with writing our laws.

The new rules are sweeping and cut across labor, health, finance and the environment. They range from setting overtime pay for white-collar workers to more obscure matters, such as requiring food makers to disclose added sugar on cartons of flavored milk.

Many stem from major health-care and financial regulatory legislation passed hastily in 2010 that unconventionally instructed regulators to fill in the specifics later. The later has arrived.

For example, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), i.e., Obamacare, is responsible for one in four major new regulations. Unfortunately, the ACA was unwisely jammed through Congress with major policy-setting provisions left to be written by staff and bureaucrats who are not directly accountable to the voters.

George Washington University’s (GWU) Regulatory Studies Center analyzes federal rulemaking and found that in his first seven years, President Obama issued 392 major regulations. They were deemed “major,” meaning each carries an expected economic effect exceeding $100 million annually. Forty-seven more sit on the drawing board.

Obama’s tally already tops the totals during the eight-year tenures of George W. Bush, (358) and Bill Clinton (361).

Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reporter Nick Timiraos wrote: “Raw tallies can be imprecise because they obscure particularly consequential regulations. The Environmental Protection Agency’s clean power plant rules issued last year, for example, would require a 32% cut in power plant carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 from 2005 levels. Such a bid to address climate change aims to reshape how energy is produced in America.”

Business leaders are calling for regulatory reforms.

“Without systemic reform, we will continue to see agencies like EPA roll out massive new regulations with little concern for costs, practicality, or even legality, and with real consequences for U.S. jobs, economic growth, and personal and economic freedoms,” Tom Donohue, President and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, wrote recently.

Even before the President’s recent regulatory surge, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) reported federal government regulations cost an estimated $2.028 trillion in 2012; an amount equal to 12 percent of GDP.

NAM found regulatory expenses were distributed across major business types and among firms of different sizes. It determined that compliance costs fall disproportionately on small businesses. In 2012, a manufacturer employing fewer than 50 people faced $12,000 a year in regulatory costs for each employee.

Neither GWU nor NAM added in the financial impact of state and local regulations, but they are substantial.

For example, Gov. Jay Inslee is considering new air quality rules dubbed “cap and trade.” Even though stymied by the Legislature, his regulations under development at the Dept. of Ecology would cap carbon dioxide emissions and force those exceeding the cap to pay stiff fines.

Utah-based Energy Strategies found that Inslee’s “cap and trade” rule increased gas, heat and electricity costs by $56 a month for the average family and over the next 20 years our state will have 56,000 fewer jobs.

Overturning these precedent-setting executive regulations too often leads those impacted to challenge them in court. That is time consuming and expensive. Members of legislatures and Congress are also fighting back by cutting funding to enforce them.

Hopefully, many of the far-reaching rules on the drawing boards will get sidetracked. They will hurt workers and their families, result in job losses and put America at a further competitive disadvantage.

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