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October 26, 2011 10:45 AM Reality ruins another GOP talking point

By Steve Benen

It’s one of those observations that Republicans repeat so often, it’s often just assumed to be true: President Obama and his big-government agenda have imposed a wave of regulations that’s overwhelming society and crushing the economy.

The notion that regulations are hurting the economy has already been so thoroughly debunked, it’s safe to conclude that anyone who repeats it is not to be trusted. But there’s another angle to the talking point that’s equally important: Obama hasn’t approved massive new regulations.

President Barack Obama’s “tsunami” of new government regulations looks more like a summer swell.

Obama’s White House has approved fewer regulations than his predecessor George W. Bush at this same point in their tenures, and the estimated costs of those rules haven’t reached the annual peak set in fiscal 1992 under Bush’s father, according to government data reviewed by Bloomberg News. […]

Obama’s White House approved 613 federal rules during the first 33 months of his term, 4.7 percent fewer than the 643 cleared by President George W. Bush’s administration in the same time frame, according to an Office of Management and Budget statistical database reviewed by Bloomberg.

I don’t recall the squeals from the right about job-killing regulations strangling the economy in 2003. Perhaps I missed it.

Michael Livermore, executive director of the Institute for Policy Integrity at the New York University School of Law, told Bloomberg the regulatory issue is “getting picked up and talked about, but not for any good reason.”

In fairness, it’s worth noting that the cost of the regulations is slightly higher under Obama than Bush, but adjusted for inflation, Obama’s regulations are still far less costly than rules approved under George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan.

For that matter, it’s also worth emphasizing that federal government regulations are not necessarily bad things. There’s no need to concede the premise of the conservative argument here — Cass Sunstein, the head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at the White House, told Bloomberg we’re talking about rules that help ensure healthier children, safer roads, and fewer industrial accidents, which in turn offer societal and financial benefits.

Still, taken together, every element of the Republican argument is demonstrably false. The GOP talking point is predicated on the notion that there’s been an unprecedented wave of new regulations, undermining the economy, and harming the country. None of this is even remotely true.

Ideally, this would lead Republicans to pick some other talking point, but (a) these folks rarely let reality interfere with a favored argument; and (b) with Obama already having approved massive tax cuts, the GOP doesn’t have anything else to talk about.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.

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  • c u n d gulag on October 26, 2011 10:50 AM:

    Reality NEVER ruins a Conservative talking point!

    They just get Luntz to tweak the narrative so that it gives the illusion of reality - or at least some semblence of it.

  • Grumpy on October 26, 2011 10:55 AM:

    I donít recall the squeals from the right about job-killing regulations strangling the economy in 2003.

    The Bush-era regulations may well have been more business-friendly, rolling back the Clinton-era rules. Even so, the numbers show Obama hasn't done a similar rollback of Bush rules. Unless the smaller number of regulations are somehow more broad.

  • T2 on October 26, 2011 10:57 AM:

    don't hold your breath waiting for the Media to make an issue out of this. Obama must Fail. He can't and has not done anything right at all. The Bin Laden thing was due to Bush policies, and the Recession began in late January of 2009, right after the Inauguration. That's also when the unemployment started.

  • Grumpy on October 26, 2011 11:00 AM:

    Bloomberg sez: "The number of significant federal rules, defined as those costing more than $100 million, has gone up under Obama..." but that's partly due to inflation.

    This doesn't turn the GOP talking point completely on its head, but it does debunk the histrionic hyperventilating about regulations crushing the economy. There are regulations; get used to it.

  • blondie on October 26, 2011 11:02 AM:

    Look, I have concluded there is nothing that comes out of a Republican mouth that should be taken seriously. If one of 'em said it's a pretty day, I'd conclude it's raining!

  • stormskies on October 26, 2011 11:06 AM:

    The reality of regulations includes the fact that it is the Repiglicans who removed one by one all the regulations of the financial industry that sprang from the Great Depression. This included the fact, reality, of removing the regulation that commercial banks could not also be investment banks. By removing this wall through Repiglican deregulation essentially turned the commercial banks into nothing more than casinos that allowed for the inventions of all the increasingly bizarre financial instruments whose root was nothing more than betting: gambling. This then of course lead to the economic collapse in our country, and much of the world.

    And here we are two years later and these Repiglicans want to remove the paltry re-regulations that Obama has restored through the lies that they keep repeating about Obama creating all these new regulations that are somehow destroying everything.

    It is of course utter insanity.

  • jayackroyd on October 26, 2011 11:07 AM:

    Regulations are actually essential to maintaining a free market economy. Leaving aside issues of market failure that involve externalities, simply running a marketplace that accurately informs consumers about what they're buying requires a substantial regulatory regime. Likewise, the establishment of a system of real property ownership, which starts with the state owning all real property, and then setting rules for transfer and use by citizens requires a massive regulatory apparatus.

    The demonization of "regulation" is about doing exactly the opposite of what Adam Smith wrote about--it is using the government to intervene on behalf of powerful private interests, rather than on behalf of the general populace. Take, for instance, labeling GMO products. The invisible hand can't work if people don't know what they're buying--and big Ag knows that given a choice between two accurately labeled potatoes, consumers will choose the potato without the spliced in neurotoxin. So, no labels.

  • Danp on October 26, 2011 11:09 AM:

    If one of 'em said it's a pretty day, I'd conclude it's raining!

    Republicans would never say it's a pretty day. They would say we're due for a hurricane.

  • ex-curm on October 26, 2011 11:09 AM:

    Unfortunately Bill Clinton signed off on repealing the Glass-Stegall Act

  • June on October 26, 2011 11:20 AM:

    I remember an item Benen posted perhaps in 2009 or so, where Frank Luntz told Republicans that the poll numbers on them were so bad they basically had nothing left but to resort to lying.

    I see they've thoroughly taken him up on it. There is not a shred of truth to anything any Republican pol says anymore. And what does it say about this country that non-stop out-andout lying is the GOP's main strategy to win?

  • stormskies on October 26, 2011 11:23 AM:

    And what does it say about this country that non-stop out-andout lying is the GOP's main strategy to win?

    **********

    This is so true June. And what does it say about this country that so many want, need, to 'believe' in these lies ?

  • DAY on October 26, 2011 11:32 AM:

    And yet, 24/7 every Republican talks about job killing regulations. Without every getting specific.
    And where is Obama, going to the mikes, and saying, in plain English, the GOP talking points are a CROCK OF SHIT?

    -at least he finally called about mcconnell by name. . .

  • @the_dan on October 26, 2011 11:33 AM:

    I think we're all missing the real point here, which is that if Republicans keep beating the drum, Obama will cave again. In fact, he's already begun. Remember last month he relented on air quality standards. Just yesterday he endorsed the House GOP's bill to weaken the government's ability to prevent tax evasion by government contractors.

    They will keep saying the Kenyan Muslim Socialist is killing jobs, and he will in turn deregulate and/or give up on new regulations in order to look like a reasonable compromiser.

  • Anonymous on October 26, 2011 11:52 AM:

    Bloomberg sez: "The number of significant federal rules, defined as those costing more than $100 million, has gone up under Obama..." but that's partly due to inflation.

    So yes, the rules are more broad, and they cost more because of inflation, but also because of inflation they actually cost less.

    Of course, rules in this case does include rollbacks or changes or replacements. Which would be the same thing Republicans want, of course.

  • desraye on October 26, 2011 12:25 PM:

    " think we're all missing the real point here, which is that if Republicans keep beating the drum, Obama will cave again.Just yesterday he endorsed the House GOP's bill to weaken the government's ability to prevent tax evasion by government contractors."

    How did Obama cave when nothing was agree to?
    Also this bill will most definitely fail in the Senate.

  • BradP on October 26, 2011 3:30 PM:

    What does it do to the common talking point blaming republican deregulation for our current economic woes?

  • TominNH on October 26, 2011 7:34 PM:

    This isnt a talking point! Neither is the birther movement, nor is calling the Democrats the KKK etc etc!! They are LIES. Just like so MANY other lies spread around by the GOP in their prusuit of turning this into a corporate controlled country. This tends to distract from the fact that MOST of our debt was run up by the last 3 GOP presidents, that they saddle Pres. Obama with a $1.3T deficit which is driving the current deficits, and they did ALL of that DELIBERATELY so they could privatize SS, Medicare etc and funnel all that money to the corporations, banks, and Wall Streeters who jsut finished crashing the economy!

    This republican campaign is rapidly becoming a matter of national security!

  • carl hammmel on October 27, 2011 12:14 AM:

    So anyone who argues with you is not to be trusted,Mr.Himmler?The only regulation necessary in a free market is to regulate those who would illicitly manipulate the market for their own financial gain.At present,it is this group who writes the regulations.Obama wants the fed.The neo-cons want the fed.Why should we argue that 647 regulations were better than eleventy million,or whatever.We can agree the less,the better,and preferrably at state level.

  • Anonymous on October 27, 2011 2:18 AM:

    Endless war,taxation,inflation,(which is the largest tax of all)are the greatest threat to national security.Blowing limbs off of innocent civilian populations gives security to no one.Our own borders are threatened,inside and out by "patriot act groups"such as homeland security and the t.s.a.Good bloggers research history and report it as it is.Not simply as they wish it were.The fact is that all of our irreversible debt started in 1913,with the federal reserve,fractional lending,and income tax.To blame it on one party or the other is absurd.To have a two party system is absurd.To think that it isn't the fault of the people,the ultimate interpreters of their own constitution,is most absurd of all.

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