Saturday, May 28, 2011

Not So Cool Rules

Wall Street Journal
May 28, 2011

In the 1982 film Fast Times at Ridgemont High, the character Jeff Spicoli expresses the Jeffersonian thesis that American democracy required "cool rules . . . pronto," lest our polity become just as "bogus" as the British rule it replaced. Where's Spicoli when you need him in Washington?

The closest thing we have is White House regulatory czar Cass Sunstein, who this week delivered a progress report on Mr. Obama's January announcement that the feds were going to review and then kill unnecessary rules across the bureaucracy. Mr. Sunstein reported some anecdotal success, including the fact that the Environmental Protection Agency has agreed to stop treating milk spills as "oil" spills for the purpose of regulating farms.

You read that right. It took a Presidential-level review to get the EPA to stop treating spilled milk like an oil slick. After we wrote about this folly on January 27 ("Land of Milk and Regulation"), EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson assailed us at a Congressional hearing. We can only imagine the protest she put up against Mr. Sunstein.

More broadly, Mr. Sunstein reports that his review has resulted in "immediate steps to save individuals, businesses, and state and local governments hundreds of millions of dollars every year in regulatory burdens."

Alas, this doesn't begin to ease the economic burden of regulation. In research sponsored by the federal Small Business Administration, Lafayette College economists Mark and Nicole Crain have estimated that Americans were spending more than $1.7 trillion annually just to comply with federal regulations—and that was before Mr. Obama took office.


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