Thursday, September 22, 2011

Job Killing Regulations

Or, you know, not:
It’s become a mantra on Capitol Hill and a rallying cry for industry groups: Get rid of the job-killing regulations. In recent days, with nearly every one of the GOP presidential candidates repeating that refrain, the political echo chamber has grown even louder. Earlier this month, President Obama also asked the Environmental Protection Agency to back off more stringent ozone regulations, citing the "importance of reducing regulatory burdens" during trying economic times.

But is the claim that regulation kills jobs true?

We asked experts, and most told us that while there is relatively little scholarship on the issue, the evidence so far is that the overall effect on jobs is minimal. Regulations do destroy some jobs, but they also create others. Mostly, they just shift jobs within the economy.

“The effects on jobs are negligible. They’re not job-creating or job-destroying on average,” said Richard Morgenstern, who served in the EPA from the Reagan to Clinton years and is now at Resources for the Future, a nonpartisan think tank.

Almost a decade ago, Morgenstern and some colleagues published research on the effects of regulation [PDF] using ten years’ worth of Census data on four different polluting industries. They found that when new environmental regulation was applied, higher production costs pushed up prices, resulting in lost sales for businesses and some lost jobs, but the job losses were also offset by new jobs created in pollution abatement.

“There are many instances of regulation causing a specific industry to lose jobs,” said Roger Noll, co-director of the Program on Regulatory Policy at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research. Noll cited outright bans of products—such as choloroflorocarbons or leaded gasoline—as the clearest examples.

That’s supported by recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which shows employers attributing a small fraction of job losses to governmental regulations. In the first half of 2011, employers listed regulations as the cause of 0.2 to 0.3 percent of jobs lost as part of mass layoffs. But the data doesn’t track the other side of the equation: jobs created.

“The key point is that regulation affects the distribution of jobs among industries, but not the total number,” said Noll.
There are two things that drive me nuts about the right wing rhetoric over regulations. The first is that generic "regulations" are somehow a massive problem, not things that make our environment cleaner, our working conditions safer, and allow capitalism function to run in a smoother, less destructive manner. I'm sure there are a few outdated ones in there that could be repealed, but let's not fool ourselves into thinking that this is what people arguing for reducing regulations are talking about. They want to pollute at will, they don't particularly care if their workers are safe, all of this because they could make more money if those laws weren't there. When asshats like Mark Warner come up with actual proposals that "remove one regulation for every one added", without naming any actual regulations that are sooooo damaging to their business, you can basically assume they're trying to make things easier for companies to destroy our environment and murder more of their own workers with no penalties.

The second thing that drives me mad is the idea that any of these companies care about losing jobs. Really? In a climate where workers are being laid at companies raking in massive profits and people are fired every day simply for exercising their right to organize, but suddenly they care about jobs? Give me a break.

I'm guessing most of you knew that the OMGJOBKILLINGREGULATIONS stuff was bullshit anyway, but the fact that this came from Pro Publica, an outstanding journalistic enterprise is important as well.

Then again, since we live in a fact free environment where people lie constantly without any repercussions, it probably won't make a difference, but it's still important to have out there.

Those of us non-insane people who still believe in mostly factual discourse need something to read, right?

1 comment:

  1. I think I found this when Neu posted a link to it on FB. I'm not sure if you've seen it yet or not, but if not I thought you might like a potential explanation for the divide between the preference for mostly factual discourse and ... well, not.
    Be warned, it contains science - or at least some guy talking about science. He does a pretty good job explaining what the (potential) differences mean (and don't mean).