Escape your life for a little while — come play in mine.

Pres. Obama’s WSJ op-ed

Posted by Lissa on January 18, 2011

Hat-tip to my husband, who emailed me the link as I was drinking my morning coffee.  The subtitle seemed promising:

“If the FDA deems saccharin safe enough for coffee, then the EPA should not treat it as hazardous waste.”

Here are some of my thoughts, re-created from our conversation.  (Many of these are not continuous; please assume [snip]’s between bullet points.)

  • I like the purported message — “For two centuries, America’s free market has not only been the source of dazzling ideas and path-breaking products, it has also been the greatest force for prosperity the world has ever known.” — but I just don’t accept some of the things he states as fact.
  • For example: “From child labor laws to the Clean Air Act to our most recent strictures against hidden fees and penalties by credit card companies, we have, from time to time, embraced common sense rules of the road that strengthen our country without unduly interfering with the pursuit of progress and the growth of our economy.” Ummmm . . . I’m not going to argue on the child labor laws, and there are parts of the Clean Air Act I would probably find reasonable, but ya lost me with that third one, cowboy.
  • “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, we have failed to meet our basic responsibility to protect the public interest, leading to disastrous consequences. [snip] Over the past two years, the goal of my administration has been to strike the right balance.”
    ME: “Oh, THAT’S been your goal for the past two years? Yeah right! No, I do not stipulate!”
    MIKE: “Well, it’s a claim. Remember, his idea of the “right balance” is certainly way different than mine, so in his head, maybe he is.”
  • “Where necessary, we won’t shy away from addressing obvious gaps: new safety rules for infant formula; procedures to stop preventable infections in hospitals; efforts to target chronic violators of workplace safety laws. But we are also making it our mission to root out regulations that conflict, that are not worth the cost, or that are just plain dumb.” I’m surprised — but not displeased — that he would use the phrase “just plain dumb.”  Mike pegs it as his attempt to channel his inner Dubya and connect with us commonfolks.
  • “For instance, the FDA has long considered saccharin, the artificial sweetener, safe for people to consume. Yet for years, the EPA made companies treat saccharin like other dangerous chemicals. Well, if it goes in your coffee, it is not hazardous waste. The EPA wisely eliminated this rule last month.” Yay hooray!!  I’m totally on board with this sort of thing!!!
  • “But creating a 21st-century regulatory system is about more than which rules to add and which rules to subtract. As the executive order I am signing makes clear, we are seeking more affordable, less intrusive means to achieve the same ends—giving careful consideration to benefits and costs.” This sounds great . . . except I’d like to see how it actually plays out. Perhaps I’m just inherently suspicious, but I’m guessing that “benefits to society” are going to outweigh “costs to companies and opportunity costs.”
  • “Despite a lot of heated rhetoric . . . “
    MIKE: “If it makes you feel better, it’s not like he wrote it himself. He probably has no idea what’s in it.”
    ME: “And the readers of the NY Times will probably eat it up.” *doubletake* “Hey, why wasn’t this in the Times? It’s in the Journal? Eeeenteresting . . .”
    MIKE: “Yeah, he’s writing for a different audience, isn’t he?”

Bottom line . . . I like the idea of lowering regulatory burdens, easing the headaches of small business owners and scrapping stupid laws.  But then again, I also like the idea of “sustainable development” . . . because who, after all, is in favor of unsustainable development?  It’s when we look at the nuts and bolts of the regulations — how things play out in the Real World, which include the glorious mayhem of Unintended Consequences — that things get a bit sticky.

Bottom-er line: I’d like this message a lot more if I thought that the messenger believed it himself.


4 Responses to “Pres. Obama’s WSJ op-ed”

  1. Amy Knoll said

    I think we should all stop and really examine the facts anytime he signs an “executive order”. That usually means we’re going to spend a ton more money and the government is going to steal a few dozen more of our rights….

    • Lissa said

      Or I can take the lazy route and cynically assume 1) either it’s not going to do anything, or 2) what it does is going to be bad.

  2. Brad K. said

    I can’t help remembering other shining lights from Chicago – Al Capone, the first Mayor Daley.

    Chicago is a great city, I served near there in North Chicago when I joined the US Navy. I interviewed once at Cook County Hospital. Chicago is a great place, with lingering fallout from a seemingly lawless past, though I imagine that most Chicagoans were always quite law abiding. The day-to-day business, outside the slums (where Obama’s cronies shine) and city politics, was honest and lawful when I was there.

    Why anyone in America would believe that Governor Jago selling Obama’s seat in the US Senate didn’t mean that Obama bought that seat in the first place is a riddle I have yet to understand.

    Rule making, and dismissing rules, is supposed to be cumbersome and time consuming. This process delays getting good things done, but severely inhibits getting bad things done. Some rules offend and hamper honest citizens; others hamper and impede labor unions or organized crime, or political cronies. Choosing what to enforce, and what to permit or cease enforcing – like the Department of Justice having and official policy of never prosecuting voter violations with white voters as victims – is always political, and all to often tainted with corruption and disregard for the law.

    I still imagine Al Capone rolling in his grave, slapping his forehead, “Oh, why didn’t *I* do it that way?!!”

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