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Not a Dime's Worth of Difference

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All's Fair in Politics... Economic Policy Analysis...
by Michael Munger
Guest Blogger
For those who, like Ralph Nader, think that there is no difference between the major party candidates, consider the regulatory process, which largely operates under the media radar, but affects all of us. Interesting in-depth story in the Washington Post today.
In the past 3 1/2 years, OSHA, the branch of the Labor Department in charge of workers' well-being, has eliminated nearly five times as many pending standards as it has completed. It has not started any major new health or safety rules, setting Bush apart from the previous three presidents, including Ronald Reagan .

It seems an easy bet that John Kerry, if elected, would have plenty of new regulations for us. You may think that is good, or bad, but it represents an enormous difference. [As for me, I am going to send another contribution to Ralph Nader's campaign. Given the way that the economy is sputtering, the forces of anti-regulation need all the help they can get, and (strangely) Nader is the best friend of regulatory rollback right now. You go, Ralph! But for some of you, you might well prefer the Kerry approach. Here is his campaign contribution site.]

This reminds me of my first "professional" job, at the Federal Trade Commission in the first Reagan Administration (1984). In the afternoon, we would take a break from our exhausting day of blocking asinine regulations, and go have a big frozen yogurt at a place right beside the entrance to the Washington School for Secretaries. Sitting there having a yogurt, watching dozens of attractive women walk by, we would sometimes say to each other, "You know, this is criminal. We are just stealing our money."

But then one of us would state the standard defense, one all of us believed fervently: "Not true! If it weren't for us, occupying these crucial desks, they might very hire someone who would write new regulations! We are doing God's work here, gentlemen! We are constipating the intestines of the cow of regulation!"

And then we would all click our foam yogurt cups, and argue about where we would go for happy hour that night. Now, those were the days.


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TRACKBACKS (3 to date)
TrackBack URL: http://econlog.econlib.org/mt/mt-tb.cgi/104
The author at Right Side of the Rainbow in a related article titled Constipating the Leviathan writes:
    Michael Munger, who's guest blogging at EconLog, posts on the decline under Mr. Bush of the Regulatory State. Mr. Munger harkens back to his own days in the Reagan Administration, where, as an employee of the Federal Trade Commission, he... [Tracked on August 15, 2004 11:07 PM]
COMMENTS (6 to date)
David Thomson writes:

Wow, Michael Munger may have done our nation a better service by robbing gas stations and mugging old ladies. How does he live down working for the government in such a capacity? Has Munger removed this information from his resume? Did Tony Soprano find him a more moral way of earning a living? Poor guy, may God bless him.

DSpears writes:

Maybe Bush hasn't become a 100% big government conservative after all. This is teh first thing i've read in a long time that would make me want to vopte for him as opposed to against his opponent.

Lawrance George Lux writes:

The truth is in the pie filling! What regulations has Bush tampered with, mainly those concerning Business liability eliminations. Good for Business-bad for Labor, Consumer, and Environment. Will Kerry be better than Bush? Doubtful. The Hurricane, though, means Bush lost Florida as I put in a Blog yesterday at another site. Bush allowed Insurance companies to shed liability, and Federal Disaster payments are slower than ever. Could Nader make a difference--now I am starting to laugh. lgl

Dez Akin writes:

Last I checked, the legislative branch introduces or repeals most regulation. Given a republican house at least, your least appealing big government democrat would serve better simply by introducing gridlock. Under the Bush administration we've had a Keynsian facination with large tax cuts and large spending bills, dancing with protectionism and pork. Why would we expect anything like that under Kerry unless congress bows to his every wish?

Mike Munger writes:

Whoa, Dez, you need to "check" again. Or maybe check for the first time, since even a cursory examination of regulatory policy will show that far and away most rules are promulgated under executive branch agencies or independent agencies with executive-appointed commissions.

Check, for example, the EPA URL with this comment. Hundreds of things pending. Congress can't pass in a year the scope of rules that an agency can promulgate in a month. The public comment period drags things out, but Congress (after INS v. Chadha) no longer has the Legislative Veto. So they have to pass a law that President signs to block regulation. Do you really think Kerry will go along with that?

Mike Munger writes:

well, the URL didn't come up. so, here it is....
http://www.epa.gov/epahome/lawintro.htm

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