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Tom Donohue: It’s Time for a Respite from Regulations

Regulatory overhaul will help the U.S. economy grow and stay globally competitive

The single biggest obstacle to job creation — U.S. global competitiveness — and the future of free enterprise is a regulatory tsunami that is unprecedented in recent history.

The new health-care law, for example, creates 159 agencies, commissions, panels and other bodies. The Dodd-Frank financial regulatory law includes more than 550 rulemakings, suggested rulemakings, reports and studies. The list goes on and includes more than 100 new labor rules and the Environmental Protection Agency’s effort to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Taken together, federal regulations fill 150,000 pages of fine-print text and cost Americans $1.7 trillion a year.

That’s why the U.S. Chamber of Commerce welcomed President Barack Obama’s executive order that initiates a review of excessive, inconsistent and redundant regulations as a positive first step in what we hope is a broader reform effort.

The next step will come when the administration backs up its intentions with an aggressive, concrete plan to pare back the growing regulatory state. To help the U.S. economy grow and remain globally competitive, we need a regulatory overhaul. This will require the replacement or repeal of outdated and ineffective regulations, as well as those that the president labeled as “just plain dumb.”

The use of realistic cost-benefit analyses based upon quality data is also essential, as is congressional action to reclaim some of the authority that lawmakers have delegated to the agencies and to provide rigorous oversight.

The chamber is concerned that the executive order only reinforces an existing Carter-era law — ignored by federal agencies — mandating the periodic review of regulations that have a significant economic impact upon a substantial number of small businesses. A provision of the Clean Air Act — requiring a continuous evaluation of potential loss or shifts of employment because of regulations — has likewise been brushed aside. So, to an extent, the administration is just reinventing the wheel when what matters is turning it.

This critique of an ever more challenging regulatory landscape, however, doesn’t mean that business opposes all regulations. To the contrary, smart regulations are necessary to define the rules of the road. Regulations can also have a positive impact in such areas as the environment, workplace safety and consumer protection. But the reach of the regulatory state has grown far too long.

In the months ahead, the chamber will work with the White House, Congress and the federal agencies to advance commonsense regulatory reform measures. We’re going to be in this fight for the long haul, because smarter, less burdensome regulations foster growth and job creation.

— Tom Donohue is president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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