In mid-January 2011, President Obama announced a business regulatory review. A prior blog entry indicated that this was likely a non-event. Sadly so far, there has been no major de-regulation of American business under the Obama Administration.
But the lack of progress did not keep President Obama from bragging about the non-existent progress. In a June 29, 2011 press conference regarding the economy and jobs, President Obama made the following statement regarding the Administration’s efforts to improve the employment environment by decreasing regulation. From the White House’s transcript of the conference, the President said:
But what I have done — and this is unprecedented, by the way, no administration has done this before — is I’ve said to each agency, don’t just look at current regulations — or don’t just look at future regulations, regulations that we’re proposing, let’s go backwards and look at regulations that are already on the books, and if they don’t make sense, let’s get rid of them. And we are in the process of doing that, and we’ve already identified changes that could potentially save billions of dollars for companies over the next several years.”
Unprecented? Never been done before? The only thing unprecedented about the Administration’s actions is the exaggerated importance of what has not occurred. Well, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) certainly disagrees with the President. In a July 2007 report entitled “REEXAMINING REGULATIONS: Opportunities Exist to Improve Effectiveness and Transparency of Retrospective Reviews” the GAO provides a 122 page report on what President Obama claims has never done before. The report summarizes:
Every president since President Carter has directed agencies to evaluate or reconsider existing regulations. For example, President Carter’s Executive Order 12044 required agencies to periodically review existing rules; one charge of President Reagan’s task force on regulatory relief was to recommend changes to existing regulations; President George H.W. Bush instructed agencies to identify existing regulations to eliminate unnecessary regulatory burden; and President Clinton, under section 5 of Executive Order 12866, required agencies to develop a program to “periodically review” existing significant regulations. In 2001, 2002, and 2004, the administration of President George W. Bush asked the public to suggest reforms of existing regulations.”
I suspect the President’s real thinking about business regulation is summarized in his following observation from the same news conference:
Keep in mind that the business community is always complaining about regulations. When unemployment is at 3 percent and they’re making record profits, they’re going to still complain about regulations because, frankly, they want to be able to do whatever they think is going to maximize their profits.”
We look forward to business conditions that are good enough to support 3% unemployment. Then, those business conditions should be not disturbed, so that unemployment can stay low. Meanwhile, President Obama would be well served by embracing business complaints about regulation, instead of complaining himself. A business’s opportunity to make and keep profits in America will allow jobs to be created here.