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Regulatory Rhetoric: Will the President Really End Agency Overreach?


Posted by Mattie Duppler on Tuesday, January 18th, 2011, 5:47 PM PERMALINK


Today, the Wall Street Journal features an editorial written by the Regulator-in-Chief, who attempts to reconcile the extensive nanny state operative crafted by his administration with the ruinous effect aggressive rulemaking has on businesses and consumers. Interestingly, the President’s piece castigates the “unreasonable burden on businesses” imposed by the regulatory machine, but extols the virtue of some of the most onerous rules imposed by the Obama White House. For instance, the President points to the EPA’s recent ruling on automobile emissions as exemplary regulatory policy when in fact the rulemaking will kill over 7 million jobs and result in huge economic losses for the country. The President also heralds a forthcoming rulemaking from the FDA on medical devices, a portion of the health care industry that has not been treated kindly by this White House. If this is the basis for sound regulatory policy, businesses and taxpayers alike have reason to be concerned.

Both the FDA and EPA have a spotty past of overstepping their authorities to push aggressive and careless policy in the absence of legislative support for particular agendas. Indeed, recognizing the unsavory nature of his latest ploy to handicap consumer choice, Rep. Ed Markey has been pushing both the FDA and EPA to undertake efforts to ban an important antibacterial chemical used in antibacterial soaps, a product which research shows is used by nearly three-quarters of Americans. Clearly moving to eliminate a product used by almost 75 percent of Americans should be based on evidence stronger than speculation. None exists, and research clearly shows Americans would prefer being free to choose these products rather than being restricted by regulatory caprice.

While President Obama was eager in his piece to herald a “21st century” regulatory regime that relies more heavily on expert advice, the executive order he signed today does little to address executive agencies’ practice of regulating in search of a problem. Markey’s crusade to outlaw antibacterial soaps is based on speculation on a product that has a global history of safe use for more than forty years. Restricting antibacterial soaps would disproportionately and unfairly target households with children, where the use of these soaps is almost ubiquitous. After the passage of a health care law that greatly handicaps families’ abilities to pay for their own medical services and products, the Obama administration should refrain from further infringing on Americans’ abilities to keep their families healthy.

This soliloquy to restraint, though welcome, will do little to ease the reserve of businesses and consumers who have seen the regulatory burden explode under the current administration.  The deference to regulatory action is an overstep that cannot be rectified by lip service to government restraint; in an op-ed or executive order.

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