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Rena Steinzor's Posts

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The Economist uses stale right-wing ideas to attack government regulation

Regulations kill jobs? Yeah, we've heard that one before.

Cross-posted from the Center for Progressive Reform.

The Economist’s Feb. 18 edition offers a cover package of five articles on “Over-regulated America” (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). Our British friends want you to know there’s a problem here in the States that needs fixing:

A study for the Small Business Administration [SBA], a government body, found that regulations in general add $10,585 in costs per employee. It’s a wonder the jobless rate isn’t even higher than it is.

You can almost feel The Economist’s pain: The jobless rate should be a lot higher than it is, if the premise about the costs of regulations is correct. Surely if the regulatory burden were actually 12 percent of GDP -- that’s what the SBA numbers say, if you draw them out -- things would be far worse than they are. Ideologically unable to consider the obvious alternative -- that regulations don’t add $10,585 in costs per employee -- The Economist just, well, “wonders” aloud.

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Behind closed doors, Obama administration politicizes the regulatory process

When former Harvard Law Professor and eclectic intellectual Cass Sunstein was named administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), conservative, industry-oriented Wall Street Journal editorial writers enthused that his appointment was a "promising sign." A slew of subsequent events has proved their optimism well placed, as we have noted repeatedly in CPRBlog. But nothing beats hard, empirical evidence. In a report released yesterday, CPR announces the results of an exhaustive six-month analysis of the barebones information OIRA has eked onto the web regarding 1,080 meetings held over a 10-year period (October 2001-June 2011) with 5,759 outside lobbyists, …

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Artificial industry sweetener

Obama's example of crazy regulation missed the mark

President Obama's op-ed in the Wall Street Journal this morning touted EPA's "deregulation" of the artificial sweetener saccharin as a positive development for America. Inadvertently, the president made EPA look silly for having regulated the stuff in the first place. The use of this example was also unfortunate because EPA's decision to deregulate had little consequence. Here's the back story. Beginning in the 1970s, scientists discovered that if you feed large quantities of saccharin to rats, they develop cancer. As a result, products containing saccharin were required to carry a warning label, and saccharin went on the lists of "hazardous substances" potentially subject to …

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Right on the money

In his Wall Street Journal op-ed, Obama moves to the right on regulation

Deep in thought about saccharin.Photo: The White HouseSixteen months ago, President Obama stood in the well of Congress and issued a ringing call for a progressive vision of government. Working to persuade members of Congress to adopt health care reform, he said that "large-heartedness ... is part of the American character. Our ability to stand in other people's shoes. A recognition that we are all in this together; that when fortune turns against one of us, others are there to lend a helping hand." Many took comfort from that vision, the first avowedly affirmative one we had heard from a president about …

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In Lew of better circumstances

Nominee Jacob Lew must take a fresh look at the broken regulatory situation

OMB director nominee Jacob Lew.Photo: Wikipedia CommonsToday, Jacob Lew heads to the hill for two Senate hearings on his nomination to be the new director of the White House's Office of Management and Budget (OMB). He is expected to be confirmed. The hearings will likely focus on budgetary issues, but no less important is another division of OMB: the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), the office charged with coordinating regulatory policy. The policy context is this: from salmonella-laced eggs to the BP oil spill, we are in a year of regulatory disasters. No one agency or individual is …

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Coal ash first real test of Obama commitment to health and safety regulation

A critical test of the Obama Administration’s commitment to reviving the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is teeing up behind closed doors at the White House. Once again, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is cast in the role of regulation killer, supported by a slew of state and other federal agencies that are polluters in this scenario. Other players include a nearly hysterical segment of the electric utility industry, which argues that labeling coal ash as a hazardous waste will prove prohibitively expensive, as well as a coalition of public interest activists that includes Robert Bullard, the father of …

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An Open Letter to Cass Sunstein

Sunstein Watch: What progressives expect from OIRA

Dear Cass: As you know, we picked a spat with the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) last week over Randy Lutter's supposedly temporary detail appointment to your office. It's not the first time we've criticized the workings of OIRA, and almost certainly won't be the last.  I've spoken to a number of people in the media and elsewhere who have expressed surprise that progressive organizations like Center for Progressive Reform are such relentless critics of a progressive administration. I'm sure administration officials feel this frustration as well. That dynamic is at work in OIRA's case because you have a reputation …

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Conservative economist Randall Lutter to OIRA?

For a number of days now, we've been hearing rumors that Cass Sunstein, President Obama's "regulatory czar," was on the verge of hiring conservative economist Randall Lutter to join him at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). Few personnel developments could be more discouraging to those hopeful that the Obama Administration will fulfill its many commitments to revitalize the agencies responsible for protecting public health, worker safety, and natural resources. The best thing that can be said about the prospect of hiring Randall Lutter, a Cornell-educated economist who cut his teeth at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), is …

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Newly confirmed regulatory czar needs to close OIRA’s backdoor for special interests

Cass SunsteinAfter weeks of sustained attack from the right-wing on issues that are marginal to the job the President asked him to do, Cass Sunstein has emerged from the nomination process bloody but apparently unbowed (here’s yesterday’s roll call). He is now the nation’s “regulatory czar,” Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.   Although Professor Sunstein has been sitting in the Old Executive Office Building for months, he has undoubtedly been preoccupied with his nomination battle. Having survived the occasionally nonsensical trial by partisan and self-serving flight of fancy that was his …

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Climate Change Schizophrenia

Cash for coal clunkers and anthems for natural gas won’t win this epic battle

Those of us worried sick over climate change confronted a depressing piece of excellent reporting in Monday's Washington Post. Environment reporter David Fahrenthold wrote that environmental organizations are getting their proverbial clocks cleaned by a well-organized and pervasive campaign mounted by affected industries in small and mid-size communities throughout America. "It seems that environmentalists are struggling in a fight they have spent years setting up," Fahrenthold wrote. "Even now, these groups differ on whether to scare the public with predictions of heat waves or woo it with promises of green jobs." If scaring the public is the objective, environmentalists don't …