White House Wants Industry Help To Choose Which Regulations To Kill

When the Obama White House begins adopting the same talking points as the dirty energy industry, something has gone horribly wrong with our government. But that is exactly what is happening today, with the White House apparently buying into the repeatedly debunked industry talking point that claims that government regulations are killing jobs.

The White House has created a new page on their website – whitehouse.gov/advise – where they are asking businesses to tell the government which regulations are burdening their business so that the government can decide whether or not to kill that regulation.

Featured on the website is a video by Cass Sunstein, Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, where he tells businesses that the White House will do what is necessary to do away with burdensome regulations in order to spur job growth.

Here’s the video:

And here’s the text on the site:

In January 2011, the President directed all executive agencies to undertake an unprecedented government-wide review of regulations on the books, in order to figure out what is working and what is not, and where appropriate, to streamline or eliminate ineffective, overly burdensome, and outdated rules. Over two dozen agencies responded with regulatory reform plans, listing more than 800 initiatives.

We are already seeing big results, but we know we can do more. That’s where you come in. We’re looking for business owners across the country to tell us which regulations are standing in your way.

For the past year, we’ve been posting stories and resources that show that regulations are not hurting job growth in America. In fact, if the government would actually enforce the regulations that are already on the books, hundreds of thousands of jobs would be created in this country. Areas that have seen an increase in federal regulations have also seen an increase in the number of available jobs.

The Institute for Policy Integrity recently drafted a report detailing how regulations actually help create jobs and spur economic growth.

From their report:

Environmental protection has a wide range of economic costs and benefits, including public health improvements and expenditures on pollution control technology. Regulation can also induce hiring and cause layoffs. These effects should be considered within the context of a complete cost-benefit analysis of a proposed rule. In many cases, effects on employment are likely to be relatively small compared to both public health benefits and compliance costs. For example, EPA estimates that its rule to reduce mercury contamination from power plants will generate benefits of about $90 billion with costs of about $10 billion. EPA predicts that 8,000 workers would be hired permanently and about 50,000 temporarily, to comply with the rule, a relatively small portion of the overall economic effects.

The evidence shows us that regulations will create jobs. And not only will they create jobs, but they will save American lives and save us money. So why is this talking point still alive? The best way to answer that is from a piece I wrote last August:

…Even though some of this information has been available to the public for years, many people still believe that any form of environmental protection will come at the expense of American jobs. The reason behind this mass ignorance once again lies with the GOP, which has deployed one of the most powerful echo chambers on the planet, consistently repeating the lie about “job killing regulations” over and over again. Unchallenged in their Fox News and right wing radio echo chambers, Republicans work to convince Americans that they have to choose between protecting the environment or the economy. They are aided by a network of industry front groups funded by polluting companies like ExxonMobil, Koch Industries and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

And that echo chamber has apparently gotten to the ears of those in the White House. It clearly already has the captive attention of Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives, as Republican Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, recently posted on the Committee’s official website:

Bureaucrats and red tape are putting the brakes on job creators who want to invest and grow their businesses. A recent Gallup poll found that nearly half of small businesses are not hiring because they are “worried about new government regulations.” In other words, they are worried about President Obama’s red tape. 44 percent of likely voters believe EPA regulations hurt the economy and 53 percent of registered voters say “federal regulations are one of the major reasons the economy is struggling.” According to the National Federation of Independent Business, “regulations and red tape” is one of the “single most important problems” for small business.

As Rep. Issa points out, Americans do believe that regulations are killing jobs. Issa conveniently ignores the fact that his talking point is bogus, because facts no longer matter at this point. If the public believes it, it might as well be true.

Another fact that Issa left out of his tirade against the very government that he works for is the fact that his list of donors who have helped him win his elections is a who’s who list of industries that would benefit from destroying regulations: The oil industry, gas companies, electric utilities, pharmaceutical industries, casinos, etc. All of these industries have each poured at least $150,000 into Issa’s campaign coffers.

But the White House doesn’t want to be left out of the conversation, so they’ve decided to go along with the theme of regulations killing jobs. But in their quest for answers as to which regulations are posing the greatest hurdles to businesses, I have to imagine that there’s better people to ask.

After all, the companies that brought us the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster, the Exxon Valdez spill, flammable drinking water from fracking, mountaintop removal coal mining, mine collapses, toxic pollutants pumped into our atmosphere by the ton – they probably aren’t the best people to take advice from when it comes to deciding which regulations to put on the chopping block.

Perhaps they should ask a miner suffering from black lung, or the parents of toddlers who have to receive several breathing treatments a day to treat the asthma that was caused by toxic air pollutants? 

Regulations are designed to serve the public interest, not special interests. Does the White House need a reminder about this key distinction?