Obama Criticized for Moving Toward Center After Signing Executive Order to Regulate Business

Jan 18, 2011 2:03pm

ABC News' Sunlen Miller Reports:

President Obama signed an Executive Order and two Presidential Memoranda to direct agencies to design regulations that are “cost-effective, evidence-based, and that are compatible with three important goals: competitiveness, job creation and economic growth,” a senior administration official described today.

The Executive Order outlines that the operating principle of the US government is to strike the right balance with regulations, neither "placing unreasonable burdens on business—burdens that have stifled innovation and have had a chilling effect on growth and jobs" nor failing to  "protect the public interest." The president first made the announcement in an op-ed in the conservative opinion pages of the Wall Street Journal, in yet another sign his move may be based in part in moving towards the political center.

Peter S. Goodman of The Huffington Post argues today that the president’s announcement is an “unhelpful new explanation for his failure to restore jobs,” by “pandering to businesses in possession of campaign cash,” and adopting “long-established Republican talking point.

“Having failed to marshal an economic program sufficiently muscular to restore vigor to a still-lean economy, the president will not even talk straight about how we got here, instead adding confusion to the narrative that will surely embolden industries hoping to write rules in their favor,” Goodman writes, “It wasn't too many regulations that trashed the economy. It was not enough rules — a deficit that owes in large part to the efforts of many of the people Obama has leaned on in putting together his economic policies.

Rena Steinzor, Center for Progressive Reform President argues too that the president’s announcement comes “right out of the Republicans hymnal, calling for ‘balance’ between  safety and economic growth and bemoaning regulations that sometimes  ‘plac(e) unreasonable burdens on businesses – burdens that have stifled innovation and have had a chilling effete on growth and jobs’.”

“By casting the discussion in those terms, the President swallows the GOP’s frame for the debate hook, line, and sinker,” Steinzor writes, “As for the argument that we need to loosen regulation in order to create jobs, the believers in this superficially appealing bit of dogma have yet to cite research showing that regulations are slowing the economic recovery.”

Senior administration officials today downplayed that this is a move to the center for the president.

“The notion that it's left or right or center, frankly, is less relevant than, are we doing what's right for the American people, and are we getting to the point where we're maximizing growth while maximizing health and safety,” the senior administration official said, “And I would hope that that's something that people left and right ultimately agree on.”

The White House says that said that the process to go ahead with this has been “ongoing for some time,” for months, if not for over a year, and did not characterize the extent that the new White House Chief of Staff, Bill Daley, played in these decisions. The Executive Order says that agencies always need to consider costs and ways to reduce burdens for businesses when they develop rules, “that they need to expand opportunities for public participation and public comment, and they need to ensure that regulations are driven by real science,” a senior administration official said today.

The Executive Order is directed to both existing regulations and new regulations. In addition to seeing how to deal with new rules, it also looks back and says that agencies should take a “hard look” at what existing rules are on the books and. if they are no longer practical, either changed or withdrawn.

“We regard this stock-taking exercise as really a way of making sure that what we have is compatible with the existing economic situation, existing technology, that things aren't obsolete or ill- considered or causing more harm than good,” the senior administration official said.

White House officials say this should be a way of reducing burdens and helping the goal of job creation.

The president also signed two presidential memoranda – one on small business, and one on transparency.

A senior administration official described the small business memorandum as an effort to reduce “unjustified regulatory” burdens on small business.

“We are aware that there are significant differences in scale and resources and on businesses of differing size; and for that reason, regulations sometimes impose disproportionately high burdens on small businesses.”

Agencies not only will be required to consider alternatives for small business, but also provide a written justification when they don't use these alternatives in their rules.

The last presidential memorandum involves transparency.

“What this part of the package does is to require agencies to put online, in a way that's very clear, their existing enforcement records so that people can see enforcement and compliance data in a form that's accessible, downloadable and searchable on the Internet,” the administration official said.

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