March 17, 2007


Recent White House decisions on the safety and health regulatory front are being welcomed by business interests but sharply opposed by consumer groups and their allies.

The New York Times reports that a recent Bush directive gives the president “much greater control over the rules and policy statements that the government develops to protect public health, safety, the environment, civil rights and privacy,” by requiring that each agency “have a regulatory policy office run by a political appointee, to supervise the development of rules and documents providing guidance to regulated industries.”

The White House “will thus have a gatekeeper in each agency to analyze the costs and the benefits of new rules and to make sure the agencies carry out the president’s priorities,” the paper said. “This strengthens the hand of the White House in shaping rules that have, in the past, often been generated by civil servants and scientific experts. It suggests that the administration still has ways to exert its power after the takeover of Congress by the Democrats.”

According to the paper, the Bush directive “says that, in deciding whether to issue regulations, federal agencies must identify ‘the specific market failure’ or problem that justifies government intervention.”

Meanwhile, the Times article said, a battle is brewing over the nomination of Susan E. Dudley to be administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at the Office of Management and Budget. (See September, 2006 Current Development Archive.) The nomination was stalled in the last Congress, then resubmitted in January 2007. It faces strong opposition from safety and consumer groups, but the president could appoint her to an interim term when the Senate next recesses.

Some of Ms. Dudley’s views are reflected in the executive order, the newspaper noted. In a primer on regulation written in 2005, while she was at the Mercatus Center of George Mason University in Northern Virginia, Ms. Dudley said that government regulation was generally not warranted “in the absence of a significant market failure.”

Finally, another Bush nomination, this one to the chairmanship of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, has drawn “vehement opposition” from consumer groups and Democrats, the Consumer Affairs website reports. Michael E. Baroody is the executive vice president of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). “NAM is one of the nation's largest trade groups and it opposes aggressive product safety regulation,” the website noted. “Ann Brown, the CPSC's chairman from 1994-2001, laughed in shock when ConsumerAffairs.Com informed her in an interview that Bush was expected to nominate a NAM executive.”

"I intend to give his nomination thorough scrutiny," Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), a Commerce Committee member, said in a statement. "Here was a golden opportunity to put a true champion of consumers onto a very important commission, and instead President Bush selected someone who represents the special interests…This administration seems incapable of doing anything in the public interest."

Baroody has a long history of Republican ties and anti-consumer regulation, the website noted. In a feature article, the Los Angeles Times described his extensive anti-regulatory and pro-business activities over the past decades. It also noted that because CPSC has been without a chairman for many months, it is no longer empowered to take formal actions on consumer product issues.

Posted by MVHAP at March 17, 2007 02:28 PM