President Obama authored an opinion column in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal titled "Toward a 21st-Century Regulatory System" in which he claims to be embarking upon a "mission to root out regulations that conflict, that are not worth the cost, or that are just plain dumb." He also announced the signing of an executive order to implement "a government-wide review of the rules already on the books to remove outdated regulations that stifle job creation and make our economy less competitive. It's a review that will help bring order to regulations that have become a patchwork of overlapping rules, the result of tinkering by administrations and legislators of both parties and the influence of special interests in Washington over decades." Mr Obama concedes, "Sometimes, those rules have gotten out of balance, placing unreasonable burdens on business -- burdens that have stifled innovation and have had a chilling effect on growth and jobs." At other times [he states], "we have failed to meet our basic responsibility to protect the public interest, leading to disastrous consequences."
In acknowledging that "small firms drive growth and create most new jobs in this country," Mr. Obama is "directing federal agencies to do more to account for -- and reduce -- the burdens regulations may place on small businesses ... to make sure nothing stands in their way." And in another column, Elizabeth Williamson states that this "move is the latest effort by the White House to repair relations with corporate America, hoping to spur investment by the nation's largest multinationals and reduce unemployment."
Partisan politicians and journalists may well accuse President Obama of doing an about face with these initiatives as a result of the trouncing that his party sustained in the last election. But one conservative commentator, prior to today's editorial, foreshadowed Mr. Obama's changing position in a weekend column. Peggy Noonan, writing in Saturday's WSJ with reference to Mr. Obama's speech in Tucson, observed that he "in some new way found the tone of the presidency in this speech, the sound of it. In a purely political sense he was talking to the center -- to the great beating heart of the middle of the country -- while going to the center himself ... Something is going on with him. He's showing the signs of someone who has learned from two solid years of embarrassment and unpopularity. Maybe he has 'not come back from hell with empty hands.' Maybe he is going to be formidable." Formidable or not, hearing the President readily concede that, "Our economy is not a zero-sum game. [that] Regulations do have costs ... Yet according to current estimates of their economic impact, the benefits of these regulations exceed their costs by billions of dollars..." is a welcome and needed change in course.
- William Busch