Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Obama Orders Review of "Regulations"

This is the type of mindless bullshit I'd expect from President Mitt Romney:
Obama took action after unveiling his plan in an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal in which he said some rules have placed "unreasonable burdens on business -- burdens that have stifled innovation and have had a chilling effect on growth and jobs."

The executive order marked Obama's latest move to repair relations with U.S. business, which were frayed amid bitter debate over his overhauls of Wall Street regulations and healthcare that some business leaders said would stymie corporate America.

Obama has struck a more business-friendly tone since his Democrats lost the U.S. House of Representatives and saw their Senate majority reduced in November congressional elections widely seen as a verdict on his handling of the stumbling economy and persistently high unemployment.
His op-ed's tactic of mentioning one obscure problematic regulation (that just got fixed, by the way) in order to justify a broad takedown of "regulation" is directly out of the right-wing playbook. The Center for Progressive Reform has a great response:
In an op-ed on the opinion pages of today’s Wall Street Journal, truly the belly of the conservative beast, the President embraces a frame for the coming discussion about the role of regulation in society that is right out of the Republican hymnal, calling for “balance” between safety and economic growth, and bemoaning regulations that sometimes “place[e] unreasonable burdens on business—burdens that have stifled innovation and have had a chilling effect on growth and jobs.”

He also used the op-ed to announce a new initiative “to review outdated regulations that stifle job creation and make our economy less competitive.”  By casting the discussion in those terms, the President swallows the GOP’s frame for the debate hook, line, and sinker.

If you listen carefully, you might hear the voices of disbelief and anguish from the families of the 11 workers killed in the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the 29 workers whose lives were extinguished at the Big Branch mine, and the nine who died after eating peanut butter crackers and similar products infected by salmonella. How about the people who knew the uncounted tens of thousands of others who were given cancer by airborne toxics at work or in the neighborhood,  experienced devastating headaches because Chinese manufacturers put sulfur compounds in their drywall and no one checked the product as it crossed our borders, or were crippled by repetitive movements in a slaughterhouse or a poultry processing plant, all on President Obama’s watch? The families, friends, and co-workers of these victims of under-regulation and under-enforcement might conclude that the United States is reverting to a place where the government most definitely does not protect people who can’t protect themselves. Sure, they think to themselves as they read about the president’s new d├ętente initiative with big business, we all need jobs, but aren’t all those billions in profits and executive bonuses enough for the business sector? Didn’t the government bailouts of the big banks do the trick?

Large corporations were at the bottom of all of the human damage listed above, not because they are intrinsically evil but because they cannot be trusted to regulate themselves. And given the current state of regulatory dysfunction at the agencies founded to protect the public, caused by a noxious mix of underfunding, political attacks, and lack of effective enforcement authority, that’s exactly what they’re doing way too much, almost everywhere you look. 
Obviously there are some regulations that are outdated or could use a tweaking but that's not the point. The point is that those are not the regulations that today's conservatives are opposed to. They're opposed to crazy outdated regulations like the minimum wage, overtime pay, and child labor laws.


I can't decided which part of this bothers me more:
  • Obama is using the presidential power of "setting the debate" to frame issues in right wing terms (Do we have too many regulations?)
  • Obama actually believes that making multimillionaire CEOs feel better will actually do something to improve the economy.
Either way, it's a pretty worrisome sign for the next two years.

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