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Tom Donohue: Obama’s Regulation Review Makes Progress But Falls Way Short

The system must be smarter, less intrusive and more accountable

The results are in on the Obama administration’s four-month review designed to identify existing regulations “that are out-of-date, unnecessary, excessively burdensome or in conflict with other rules.”

The administration certainly had a lot to choose from. There are about 180,000 regulations on the books costing Americans $1.7 trillion a year in compliance costs. Many are necessary; some are not.

Although we have yet to review all the details, it appears the administration is making some commonsense recommendations that will save businesses time, money, headaches and resources. This is progress, but it is not nearly enough.

While federal agencies complied with the provisions of President Barack Obama’s executive order requiring a review of existing regulations, they exempted the huge flow of regulations in the pipeline generated by the health-care and financial reform laws, as well as the large number of major rules generated by the Environmental Protection Agency during the past two years.

This enormous onslaught of new regulations will cost hundreds of billions of dollars, hamper our recovery, undermine our competitiveness and cost jobs. The regulations are being promulgated under the same system that generated the ones the administration just found necessary to review. And the “look back” plans do not appear to fix this problem.

When Neil Armstrong landed on the moon nearly 42 years ago, he said, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” This review process represents the “one small step.” The “giant leap” that will fundamentally reform our deeply flawed regulatory system, pull it into the 21st century and fashion it into an effective tool to ensure public health and safety and advance America’s economy and competitiveness has yet to come. And it better come soon.

What we need is a plan to make our flawed regulatory system smarter, less intrusive and more accountable. Any such plan must require greater congressional oversight of rules that have a major economic impact; cost-benefit analyses and science reviews conducted entirely by independent third parties to ensure quality data and to remove politics from the equation; and greater judicial access for stakeholders so that they can enforce transparency, check bureaucratic power and hold governmental decision makers accountable.

This isn’t about partisan politics — it is about good government. A commonsense regulatory system that protects our citizens from health and safety threats while spurring economic growth, jobs and competitiveness is the “giant leap” we must take for American success in the 21st century.

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

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