Wednesday, March 09, 2005

OMB Deregulation: Bush Starts To Pay Back Friends

It's not quite two months since the second coming inauguration and the White House Office of Management and Budget has already laid out a plan to roll back regulations for its business buddies who put them in office.
The Bush administration said on Wednesday that it was considering overhauling 76 regulations on subjects from pollution control to worker leave, in an effort to ease the burden on U.S. manufacturing firms.

Federal agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Labor were instructed to review or update the regulations that cover subjects like toxic emissions by companies and the hours worked by truck drivers.

The White House Office of Management and Budget says its aim is to boost efficiency, while critics said the effort was a giveaway to special interests.
The move was predicted today's Wall St. Journal (paid registration) in an amazingly candid article about the Bush administration's dishonorable intentions:
The Bush administration is expected to launch a push for business-friendly regulation, possibly including streamlined and more flexible pollution standards, chemical-handling rules, and workers' medical-leave protections.


OMB is leading the effort, which may be launched as early as this week, through its Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. The project is being coordinated by former Harvard professor John Graham, who has turned OMB's regulatory arm into a voice for the administration's pro-business views on regulation, after years of relative inaction under the Clinton administration.

The campaign appears in part to be a recycling of a broader effort from Mr. Bush's first term to overhaul outmoded regulations governmentwide. That initiative achieved less than the administration hoped, because some agencies dragged their feet on the White House's suggested changes, according to regulatory experts.


The initiative comes as business interests are making headway in Washington on several fronts, including tightening class-action rules and consumer-bankruptcy laws.

The White House is expected to put forward a new priority list of regulations for agencies to rewrite or push through. Some changes would be relative tweaks, while others would be substantial. Changes would be made administratively with little or no input from Congress.

OIRA gave what some experts regard as a preview of the regulatory-review effort in December, when it published several lists of rules for which either the administration or business and other private-sector groups had sought overhaul. Much of the new initiative is expected to focus on industry-nominated changes

OMB says the changes "bring lower costs, greater efficiency and more flexibility to businesses."

But Robert Schull, analyst at OMB Watch, a public interest group, called the proposal a "wish list from industry" that will weaken environmental protections and consumer and workplace safety.
"They have gone through and checked off the issues they'll get behind," Schull said. "They are doing whatever they can to help corporate interests."