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Regulations & Bans and What Voters Want: An Untapped Market

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

When President Obama adopted his “We Can’t Wait” program of violating the separation of powers and decided to govern by regulation instead of law, did he start damning his reelection chances? November is a long ways away and who knows what will happen between now and then, but if Republicans can draw enough attention to what he and his progressive friends have done and are seeking to do, it might not be an exaggeration.


The liberal Lincoln Park Strategies conducted a survey recently and discovered the idea of preemptive regulation in “the public interest”, bypassing the regulatory process and scientific or statistical evidence, is not popular amongst many Americans.

In a survey of 1000 likely voters, Lincoln Park asked, “Recently there have been a few stories about chemical and product safety in the news. Overall, when it comes to these issues, who do you trust the most to determine which chemicals and products are safe?”

Fully 70 percent said scientists, meaning actual studies and data, 9 percent said manufacturers, 7 percent said the courts, 2 percent lawyers and, at the bottom, 1 percent said politicians. We all know politicians are unpopular, but how many knew they would fall below lawyers and manufacturers?

More than that, as Lincoln Park President Stefan Hankin writes, “We asked likely voters whether chemicals or products should be banned based on a belief of harm (known in Europe as the Precautionary Principle), or on current scientific evidence; a full two-thirds of respondents (67 percent) said science should inform regulatory decisions in this country compared to just 23 percent who feel that products should be banned if they might be harmful.”

This is relevant to something I’ve written about in the past; the push to ban bisphenol-A, or BPA, a common chemical used in making hardened plastics. The ruckus over BPA literally violates every single opinion held by voters regarding regulations. There is absolutely zero evidence of harm to humans from BPA in normal use; politicians from US senators to city council members have sought to ban it; and activist lawyers have sued the Food and Drug Administration in their attempt to rid the marketplace of BPA.


The Obama administration has until the end of March to decide whether it will go along with the Natural Resources Defense Council’s against them to ban BPA or let science guide the regulatory process. It remains to be seen what the administration will do, but if their record is any indication, we may see a ban of the chemical even though BPA is the poster child for everything Americans do not want in regulatory policy. Further, the conceptual implications of the Lincoln Park poll have no limits.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under President Obama’s Chairman Julius Genachowski has desperately been working to regulate the Internet and impose so-called “net neutrality” regulations. The justification used to impose something Congress and the American people have rejected time and again is the need to keep the Internet open to all ideas. Curiously, the progressives, through the FCC, seek to regulate the Internet exactly as it is and always has been.

With BPA, progressives are seeking to ban without evidence, with net neutrality they’re regulating without demonstrated need. In both cases it’s about control, as is usually the case with government involvement.

Then we come to the Keystone XL pipeline, which has bi-partisan support in Congress.

Progressives always couch their power grabs in nice sounding platitudes to give the impression they’re acting in your best interest, to protect you from something harmful to your person or threatening to your freedom. With BPA there is no harm and with net neutrality there is no threat, but facts aren’t needed, only the strawman of possibility need be floated for government to justify riding in to protect you.


With the pipeline the strawman is the environment. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, wrote a letter to the Secretary of State saying, “Following the nation’s worst oil spill and at a time when the effects of global warming become more apparent every day, it is imperative that we have thorough and objective environmental assessments so that the public can fully understand the impacts of proposed projects.” Two strawmen for the price of one – the Gulf oil spill, which had nothing to do with a pipeline, and global warming, which has less definitive proof than Bigfoot.

But in many, particularly the uninformed (people simply too busy to pay attention beyond what the mainstream media has to say) and the misinformed (progressive voters who take radicalism as unquestioned gospel), those strawmen strike fear. The unproven or disproven threat, for many, is enough. These are the people wondering why the president doesn’t do more. He’s protecting people, after all.

The Lincoln Park survey finds these people are a distinct minority. Asked if there’s no current scientific evidence chemicals or products are dangerous, how important of a factor in preemptively banning them should job losses and the economic impact be, fully 71 percent said it should be very (35) or somewhat (36) important in deciding. The Obama Administration and their progressive allies in and out of Congress are, on many fronts, thwarting the will of 71 percent of the American electorate. Only the voters, a large portion of them anyway, don’t know it.


While debate moderators focus on contraception, Terry Schiavo, ex-wives and anything other than the chips slowly being chiseled away from the edges of our liberty, the candidates have to draw attention to these outrages. There is a lot happening in and around government that a majority of Americans would rally against or, more importantly, rally to the polls over, if the correct case is made. The data is there backing the concept of an anti-regulatory state champion, and each of the candidates have flirted with the concept, but none have yet emerged to make the case. While voters may not be waiting bated breath, the data suggests it’s only because they don’t yet know.

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