Next President Should Talk Up Regulation: Scholars

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By Cheryl Bolen

Aug. 3 — The next president should articulate a positive vision of government to counteract the negative perceptions of federal regulation, scholars said in a new paper.

In their “Memo to the Next President,” scholars at the Center for Progressive Reform called on the next elected president to talk constructively about the regulations that safeguard public health and safety.

“For decades, we have been stuck in a debate based on the false premise that markets enhance liberty while government restricts it,” the scholars said. “That is wrong.”

Instead, the next president should forcefully respond to the decades-long campaign to foster public distrust of governing institutions, which has included systematically depriving agencies of the resources they need to address public problems effectively, the scholars said.

Trump Would Overturn

During his campaign, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has repeatedly called for overturning numerous environmental, health-care and financial regulations (See previous story, 06/02/16).

“The next president should forcefully rebut the myth advanced by some corporate interest groups and lawmakers that federal regulatory activity has become excessive and overly burdensome,” the scholars said.

The best available evidence confirms that strong regulatory protections are consistent with both job growth and a sound economy, they said.

For example, Clean Air Act regulations helped contribute to a 68 percent reduction in total emissions of criteria pollutions such as ground-level ozone and fine particular matter between 1970 and 2011, the scholars said. But during this same period, U.S. gross domestic product grew 212 percent, they said.

Drilling Down by Industry

In contrast, Sam Batkins, director of regulatory policy at the American Action Forum, said certain areas of the economy are more regulated than others, which shows up in productivity, job loss and wages.

“The short answer is, if you look industry by industry, it’s certainly the case that [regulation] could have detrimental effects,” Batkins told Bloomberg BNA. “If you look economy-wide, then those effects are often masked.”

Still, there can only be so many billion-dollar regulations on a particular industry before the effects start to show, Batkins said, adding that people can point to the unemployment rate, but just as well to the historically low labor force participation rate, low wage growth and mediocre GDP growth.

Effect Is There

The Clean Power Plan is a big, far-reaching regulation, Batkins said. “But even that rule on an economy-wide scale will have little to no effect on total employment,” he said.

Saying generally that there has been a lot of regulation in the Obama administration, yet GDP growth isn’t negative, doesn't prove that regulation hasn't had an effect on the economy, Batkins said.

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