Wanted to be sure you saw this Washington Post article on GOP efforts to add burdensome new hurdles to the regulatory process and undermine consumer protections. And contrary to Republican claims, there’s no evidence that rolling back these protections will grow our economy or help put more Americans back to work:
“…economists who have studied the impact of regulations have concluded that the overall effect on jobs is minimal. Only 0.3 percent of layoffs were caused by government regulations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.”
“’In CBO’s judgment, the economic effects of the specific changes in regulatory policies . . . probably would be too small or would occur too slowly to significantly alter overall output or employment in the next two years,’ Elmendorf said in his testimony.”
GOP takes aim at process of crafting regulations
By Jia Lynn Yang, Wednesday, November 30, 12:57 PM
For months Republican lawmakers have targeted specific regulations they want to repeal or block, all in the name of saving jobs. Next up: remaking the entire process for government rulemaking.
A handful of bills on Capitol Hill would add new layers of congressional involvement to the rulemaking process, in addition to dozens more criteria for agencies when they analyze a rule’s impact on the economy. The net effect, say consumer groups, is that the already slow process for implementing regulations would get even slower.
Supporters of the bills argue that government regulations are impeding businesses and that agencies need further checks on their work. Several Republican presidential candidates have framed their economic policy plans around rolling back regulations.
“The current regulatory system has become a barrier to economic growth and job creation,” said Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee when he introduced the Regulatory Accountability Act of 2011, or RAA, in September along with Rep. Howard Coble (R-N.C.), Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) , Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.).
Yet economists who have studied the impact of regulations have concluded that the overall effect on jobs is minimal. Only 0.3 percent of layoffs were caused by government regulations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The RAA takes on a 65-year-old statute, called the Administrative Procedure Act, that is the bedrock of how agencies implement regulations passed by Congress. Experts estimate there are at least 100 separate requirements that agencies have to fulfill; for instance, agencies have to consider the impact of a rule on small businesses and the environment. The RAA would add roughly 60 new requirements.
“The RAA would grind to a halt the rulemaking process at the core of implementing the nation’s public health, workplace safety, and environmental standards,” wrote OMB Watch’s Jessica Randall in a study of the bill’s impact. “This bill will not improve the federal regulatory process; it will cripple it. Rules that somehow make it through the RAA’s process would tilt against the public interest and in favor of powerful special interests.”
According to the study, the RAA would add 21 to 39 months to the rulemaking process, which can already stretch into several years when businesses and agencies jostle over the details of implementation.
Another bill, called the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act, or REINS, would add significantly more involvement from Congress at the tail end of rulemaking.
Currently, if Congress opposes a rule, it can invoke the Congressional Review Act to block it. The REINS Act, introduced by Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Rep. Geoff Davis (R-Ky.) turns this around, requiring Congress to approve every rule before it goes into effect.
“If Congress is to impose regulations and laws on U.S. citizens, it is important that those citizens are made aware of how they come to be,” said Paul in a statement. “Cutting red tape and opening the regulatory process to scrutiny is an important step in holding government accountable to all Americans.”
But consumer advocates say that the REINS Act is not about process but about business groups upset with specific rules that protect public safety and the environment.
A report this summer by Public Citizen, the consumer advocacy group, said that of the 48 groups that reported lobbying on the act during the first half of 2011, 26 were from the energy industry. Many utility and coal companies have criticized the Environmental Protection Agency for regulations that they say will cost jobs.
“If you’re worried about a particular regulation, the solution is not to fundamentally undermine the regulatory process,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen.
The battle over regulations comes as policymakers search for ways to encourage economic growth.
Congressional Budget Director Doug Elmendorf testified last week before the Senate Budget Committee about different policies Congress might adopt toward lowering the unemployment rate. He acknowledged that regulations can sometimes dampen business investment. But Elmendorf concluded that changing regulations would do little to help the country in the near term.
“In CBO’s judgment, the economic effects of the specific changes in regulatory policies . . . probably would be too small or would occur too slowly to significantly alter overall output or employment in the next two years,” Elmendorf said in his testimony.