Last week, the president wrote in the Wall Street Journal an article titled "Toward a 21st-Century Regulatory System" in which he announced that he had issued an executive order to review all government regulations on a cost-benefit ratio basis. In itself, this is a good idea, although the president makes it explicit that the cost-benefit analysis must take account of -- as benefits -- intangible factors such as "equity, human dignity, fairness, and distributive impacts." Plenty of leeway there for career regulators and liberal political appointees to justify almost any oppressive regulation they may stumble over.
But what startles one is the that such a proposal could come from the same administration that has for the last two years been saddling the American economy and our personal lives with more new legislatively mandated regulations than we have ever experienced in such a short time.
Consider that the president's enacted health care and financial laws, by themselves, rigorously increase regulation over 25 percent and 30 percent of the entire economy. Health care now embraces about 17 percent of the economy, while finance is about 10 percent. So that by those two laws alone, the health and finance industries will be subjected to years of new regulatory oppression. In fact, it will take years just to promulgate and bring into enforcement those new regulations.
At a less visible level, the administration has been busy re-regulating across the board at a furious rate. (For instance, see this week's Weekly Standard article on the new 2010 regulation that has taken most phosphates out of dishwasher detergent. Without sufficient phosphates, dishwashers cannot properly clean dishes, as you may be noticing at home.) And of course, the outlawing of the cheap, effective incandescent light bulb will soon be coming into enforcement.
Now, no rational person can have any expectation that the new executive order, by itself, will actually result in significantly fewer regulations. Even a government that fervently believed in deregulation, like the Reagan administration, found it exasperatingly difficult to force the regulatory bureaucracy to even slow down, let alone reverse course. And the Obama administration, whatever orders it may be getting from the top, is filled with political and career staff that are in favor of ever more regulations.
But what does it say about the seriousness of purpose and steadiness of policy of an administration that first regulates with abandon, then proclaims the opposite policy?
Perhaps a clue can be found in last weekend's New York Times Magazine article by Peter Baker in which it was reported that:
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.