The Chief Regulatory Commissar Talks Deregulation In a transparent attempt to appear as a supply-side convert, Barack Obama wrote in The Wall Street Journal1 this week about his forthcoming efforts at regulatory review. "[W]e are ... making it our mission to root out regulations that conflict, that are not worth the cost, or that are just plain dumb," he proclaimed. The regulator in chief, the czar-maker, is now targeting regulations for elimination? The ironies of politics never cease to amaze us.

Obama also now swears he's a friend to small business, despite having fought tooth and nail against making the Bush tax rates permanent, or even extending them temporarily for the top two brackets, which include most small business owners. "I am directing federal agencies to do more to account for -- and reduce -- the burdens regulations may place on small businesses. Small firms drive growth and create most new jobs in this country. We need to make sure nothing stands in their way."

We noted just last week2 that, over the last 25 years, administrations of both parties average between 30 and 40 major regulations (those affecting the economy by $100 million or more) each year. The Obama administration created 59 such regulations in 2009 and 62 in 2010. The 2,300-page financial regulation bill calls for 11 federal agencies to write 243 new rules. ObamaCare itself includes more than 1,000 instructions for new regulations. See the chart3.

Yet now Obama wants us to believe that he's really a deregulator at heart, or at least a smart, thrifty, business-friendly regulator. "Despite a lot of heated rhetoric," he wrote, "our efforts over the past two years to modernize our regulations have led to smarter -- and in some cases tougher -- rules to protect our health, safety and environment. Yet according to current estimates of their economic impact, the benefits of these regulations exceed their costs by billions of dollars." Achieving that alleged cost-benefit ratio would be quite a feat since The Heritage Foundation estimates that 2010's regulations cost $26.5 billion.

One of the primary offenders is the Environmental Protection Agency, which has written environmental regulations at will for decades. Fittingly, Obama pointed to the EPA as a model of good regulation, as good a sign as any that the president isn't serious about rolling back the burden of government.

The primary signal that this is all just smoke and mirrors, however, is the very Executive Order he signed calling for review. As James Gattuso at Heritage observed4, "Rather than require agencies to identify harmful regulations during the next 120 days, or even to eliminate unwarranted rules, the order merely requires agencies to submit a 'preliminary plan' for reviewing regulations sometime in the future, with the goal of making their regulatory program either less burdensome or 'more effective.'" The order goes on to exclude bureaucracies such as the Federal Communications Commission, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. In the end, this review will likely result in more regulations.

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