Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Taking On the Regulations

President Obama announced — in the Wall Street Journal — that he’s issuing an executive order to look into getting rid of a lot of federal regulations.

Sometimes, those rules have gotten out of balance, placing unreasonable burdens on business—burdens that have stifled innovation and have had a chilling effect on growth and jobs. At other times, we have failed to meet our basic responsibility to protect the public interest, leading to disastrous consequences. Such was the case in the run-up to the financial crisis from which we are still recovering. There, a lack of proper oversight and transparency nearly led to the collapse of the financial markets and a full-scale Depression.

Over the past two years, the goal of my administration has been to strike the right balance. And today, I am signing an executive order that makes clear that this is the operating principle of our government.

This order requires that federal agencies ensure that regulations protect our safety, health and environment while promoting economic growth. And it orders a government-wide review of the rules already on the books to remove outdated regulations that stifle job creation and make our economy less competitive.

Speaking as someone who has to deal with federal regulations every day, and some of them are antiquated and cumbersome (does the OMB really require an original signature in blue ink on that form; have they never heard of scanning and e-mail?), this is probably a good idea. And as is the case with just about everything the Obama administration does, it’s being derided from the left as a sop and suck-up to the business community, and to the conservatives who still think the White House is the Kremlin on Pennsylvania Avenue, it’s just pruning around the edges and won’t make a dent in the horrible burden of having to actually be accountable for what they do.

Ever the slightly-bemused cynic, I’m inclined to agree with Ezra Klein, who is not sure that the White House is doing this either because they think it needs to be done or they’re trying to pre-empt Congress from doing it, or both. For me the way to tell is if there are any changes in the regulations that I deal with. I’ll let you know.