President Admits Regulations are a Mess, But Fact is His Administration is Making Things Worse

In a meeting with business leaders, President Obama had some interesting things to say about regulations, the Washington Times reports:

You have regulations that are poorly written. You’ve got regulations that are not properly synced up so that you have different agencies with different responsibilities, and so compliance costs end up skyrocketing. You have regulations that squash innovation.

He sounds like he works at the U.S. Chamber.

When asked what his administration was doing to improve the regulatory environment, President Obama answered:

“We’re spending a lot of time on the regulatory look-back process, digging back into old rules and seeing what [ones] don’t make sense.”

This also sounds good, but take his words with a grain of salt. Actions by his administration have spoken louder.

For instance, when the U.S. Chamber made a Freedom of Information Act request for any studies EPA undertook thatlooked back at the employment effects from regulations it wrote over the decades, the agency admitted it couldn’t find any information. And when the administration has reexamined some regulations, the end result has been higher“new net costs.”

The other stubborn fact is this administration is making the regulatory situation worse. The Washington Times story notes this irony about the President complaining about regulations:

[B]usinesses have been hit with nearly 50 percent more “economically significant” regulations under Mr. Obama than under the presidency of George W. Bush.

Mr. Obama has issued 406 of these regulations, estimated to cost businesses more than $100 million per year, over his first six years in office — an average of 68 per year. Mr. Bush issued 277 such regulations over his first six years in office, for an average of 46 annually.

This chart shows the high plateau of number of “economically significant” regulations produced while President Obama has been in office.

Between 2000 and 2013 federal agencies issued 4,468 significant rules.

Here are a few proposed regulations by the Obama administration that have been covered extensively on this blog:

  • Carbon regulations for both current and future power plants. These will drive coal out of America’s energy mix.
  • Redefining the Waters of the United States in such a way as to force farmers, retailers, manufacturers, and other land owners to spend time and money getting federal permits to develop their own land.
  • Changing the ozone standard to make most Americans live in noncompliant areas and restrict economic development.
  • Obamacare redefining full-time work from 40-hours-per-week down to 30-hours-per-week incentivizes employers to cut workers’ hours.
  • Insisting that insurance companies be treated like banks under the Dodd-Frank financial regulation law, even though they have different business models.

It’s obvious that we must reform the process of how regulations are made. U.S. Chamber President and CEO Tom Donohue laid out four principles of effective regulatory reform:

  1. Restoring accountability.
  2. Greater transparency.
  3. Meaningful public participation.
  4. A safe but swift permitting process.

Instead of aspirations and talk about making regulations more effective and rational, President Obama should tell regulatory agencies to reconsider the many costly regulations they’re proposing and developing. He should also work with Congress to reform how regulations are made.

Let’s turn words into meaningful, productive action.

EDITORS NOTE: Meet Sean Hackbarth @seanhackbarth Follow @uschamber. The featured image of President Obama is by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg.