Those Annoying Regulations

I wouldn’t be a politician for all the tea in China; they can’t win for losing. A case in point is the matter of regulations. Obama is criticized by the conservatives for being “regulation-happy” when according to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs he has been responsible for fewer regulations than any president since 1992 — a fact which brings criticism from the political left which thinks there should be more, not fewer, regulations.

Even more interesting is the fact that in an election year large numbers of regulations that have been passed simply sit somewhere in an office in Washington “wrapped in red tape” “under review” waiting for “experts” to move them along. They are in limbo and aren’t part of the warp and woof of our political world. They have been passed but haven’t yet been passed, if you catch my drift. This year, for example, a number of so-called “expensive” regulations — those that might reduce the profits of the large corporations and further weaken the economy (along with some that are regarded as “controversial”) simply gather dust waiting further review, even though they have been passed and approved. These regulations, according to USA Today (July 27, 2012), include such things as “four rules required under last-year’s updated food-safety law.. .[including] improved controls at food processing facilities and stricter standards on imported foods.” In addition, waiting activation are regulations to reduce exposure to silica dust, regulations to require rear-view cameras in automobiles, and the like. Some regulations would appear to be essential to our health while others seem a bit esoteric and even pointless. But they have not been activated because this is an election year and someone might get upset — someone with a fat check book. This tells us who carries weight in Washington, in case we were in doubt.

Liberals want more and tougher regulations and see the important ones gathering dust and complain loudly. But they carry little political clout so their collective voices are not heard. The corporations do not want the “expensive” regulations passed — such as the regulation to reduce silica dust — because they will cut into profits and therefore hurt the economy. This is the familiar argument that regulations (the result of an overgrown government) cut into profits resulting in cut-backs and “downsizing” (not to mention outsourcing) and the economy is further crippled. Here we have the old bifurcation fallacy: either jobs or the economy. I have discussed this error here and here. Despite the fact that it is a flawed argument, it is heard, of course. This is most interesting: politicians have determined that the economy is more important than health and human welfare. And apparently we agree with them because we keep electing the fools.

Until the regulations have been fully “reviewed” and approved they cannot be put into effect even though passed by the Congress. And since the mid-term elections the current  Administration has been reluctant to pass along many regulations and the best guess is that it will be quite a while — at least until after the elections — before the regulations are put into effect, especially the “expensive” regulations. And this despite the fact that regulations that are pending could help improve our quality of life and reduce health risks, such as heart and respiratory problems that result from poor air quality.

We need to reconsider what we mean by the word “expensive.” Some things may cost money, but even when it is a great deal of money it is cheaper than poor health and early death from causes that could be eliminated or reduced through government regulations — especially those that have been passed but are “pending” until further review — i.e., until it becomes politically expedient to move them along.

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5 thoughts on “Those Annoying Regulations

  1. Good post. I just left a comment on Barneysday blog who was talking about business ethics and regulation. For people to say we don’t need regulations is an insult to the American people and others abroad. Businesses don’t want regulation, but need it. Just count the number of financial industry scandals over the past few weeks alone on top of pre-2008 recession mess they created. What is holding back business is not regulation it is lack of customers. It is not uncertainty over taxes it is lack of customers. Warren Buffet said recently, “If I saw opportunity, I was not held back by regulations or taxes. I made the investment.”

  2. Great post! And great comment from the Old Fart! “politicians have determined that the economy is more important than health and human welfare.” This has always baffled me. So sad, but so true. And the lack of regulations placed on the banks after their corrupt activities is unfathomable. It’s enough to make even me, with my rose colored glasses, skeptical that things will ever change.

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