The latest mantra in Washington is that excessive government regulations are smothering the economic recovery. Just yesterday, President Obama told the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that he has ordered a review to weed out rules that are “needlessly stifling job creation and growth.”
So what are these regulations that are snuffing out economic growth and job creation just when we need it most? House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., invited nearly 150 corporations and trade associations to identify current or proposed regulations that have had a negative effect on job growth.
On Monday, Issa released more than 200 responses to his queries. Based on a Fiscal Times analysis of the complaints of some of the most prominent or influential corporate groups – including the Business Roundtable and the National Association and Manufacturers, here is the list of regulations that they claim constitute “The Five Biggest Job Killers.”
- Ozone Standards. Four years after the Bush administration finalized limits on ground-level ozone under the Clean Air Act, the Obama administration – responding to an ongoing court case – has opened the door to tightening current ozone limits by as much as 20 percent. The NAM cited one study contending that such a move could result in a loss of 7.3 million jobs between now and 2020. The Environmental Protection Agency is slated to make a final decision on the rule by the summer of 2012.
- Industrial and Commercial Boiler Emissions. EPA is in the bull’s-eye on this one, too, with the Council of Industrial Boiler Owners saying that a proposed rule to clamp down on boiler emissions could put nearly 340,000 jobs on the line, and cost more than $20 billion in compliance costs to industry – double EPA’s estimate. This issue also has landed in court, with EPA under orders to come up with a final rule this month.
- Export Controls. Saying that U.S. exports control regulations “have not been significantly revised since the Cold War,” the NAM cited figures from the Washington-based Milken Institute – which estimates that a “modernization” of such regulations could increase U.S. high-tech exports by $60 billion and create 350,000 new jobs. “We applaud the Obama administration for the steps it has taken thus far to modernize the export control system, but more is needed to improve the system … to protect manufacturing jobs,” NAM said in its letter to Issa.
- Trading In Financial Derivatives. Last year’s overhaul of the nation’s financial regulatory system – the Dodd-Frank bill – placed new regulations on trading in often complex financial derivatives. The bill does provide some exemptions from these regulations for so-called end-users – non-financial firms who contend that they use derivatives to manage financial risk rather than create it. But, as several federal agencies seek to finalize these regulations by mid-year, the end users are concerned about being forced to maintain large financial reserves – with the Business Roundtable contending that a 3 percent “margin requirement” on such firms could mean a total loss of 100,000 jobs, as well as tying up an average of nearly $270 million for an involved business.
- Livestock Marketing. Marketing-related regulations arising out of the 2008 farm bill could mean a loss of 100,000 jobs in the meat, livestock and related industries, according to a letter to Issa from the American Meat Institute – which represents meat packers and processors. The proposed rules would make packers and suppliers more reluctant to utilize certain marketing agreements, and “goes well beyond the mandate … given by Congress in the 2008 farm bill,” AMI said. The letter also contended that the Agriculture Department has yet to conduct a “sound economic analysis” of the rule.
Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the oversight committee’s ranking Democrat, said the information collected by Issa was one-sided. He complained that the Republican majority "requested only information regarding the potential costs of regulation – and no information regarding the key benefits to health and safety."
Said Cummings: "The American people sent us here not only to create jobs, but also to protect their health, welfare and safety. There must be a reasonable balance between job creation, which we all support, and regulatory measures that provide core protections to the American people.”
But Issa and corporate groups see it differently. “Regulatory burdens facing U.S. business are rapidly accelerating as a consequence of legislation passed over the previous two years that must now be implemented and by decisions made by regulatory agencies to aggressively expand their regulatory reach,” the Business Roundtable – which includes many of the nation’s largest companies – wrote to Issa. “This regulatory tsunami, occurring hastily and at a time when the U.S. economy is struggling to emerge from a deep recession, is hindering investment and job creation.”
Issa, who plans a Thursday hearing focused on the letters he has received, sought to characterize his effort as consistent with Obama’s pledge last month to conduct a regulatory review of executive branch agencies, with an eye to eliminating or streamlining rules that stand in the way of economic growth.
The Oversight and Government Committee effort “should complement what President Obama has already called on his administration to do and, in concert, lead to a robust and expansive discussion about what the best way forward is to stimulate our economy,” said Issa, who made headlines last fall by terming Obama “one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times.” (He later backed off that statement somewhat, saying he was talking about the administration and not Obama himself.)
Notwithstanding Issa’s rhetorical outreach to Obama, partisan sparring is likely to be abundant at Thursday’s hearing: Democrats complain that Issa ignored requests to turn over the letters to them prior to Monday’s release, while several watchdog groups contend that Issa’s approach fails to take into account the benefits of many of the regulations he is highlighting.
“It reflects what has been a typical business and conservative approach to government protection of the public – which is to tell everyone to get out of the way and let business have their way,” declared Rick Melberth, director of regulatory policy at the liberal OMB Watch.
Melberth charged Issa had made no effort to solicit the opinions of those outside the business community. “This is a pretty one-sided, partisan effort,” he said.
Business Don’t Like Regulation: What Else is New? (Slate)
EPA Tops List of Business Complaints on Government Rules to Issa Committee (Bloomberg)
Cutting Government: The Small Business Perspective (Wall Street Journal)