When Trying to Create Jobs, a Focus on Regulation is Misplaced

November 14, 2011 | 5:36 pm
Francesca Grifo
Former contributor

This morning’s Washington Post has an important article that highlights what we’ve been pointing out for months: science-based government regulations, many of which are put forward to protect our health and safety, have minimal impact on the nation’s ability to grow or lose jobs.

It’s as simple as this: lawmakers and some presidential candidates who have long wanted to gut the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, and other critical science-based laws are taking advantage of fear about the economy. In a rush to take away public protections related to issues as diverse as food safety and toxic chemicals, they are frothing at the mouth, making emotionally compelling yet intellectually bankrupt arguments.

The White House has bent over backwards to get rid of unnecessary red tape. But President Obama and Congress should ask the question that Stanford economics professor Roger Noll asks in the article: “On balance, does our society benefit?”

Regulation grounded in independent scientific analysis has removed lead from paint and gasoline, led to more fuel-efficient cars, and protected workers from asbestos poisoning. At the same time, a lack of sensible regulation and enforcement led to the BP oil spill, the mortgage crisis, and the death of coal miners in West Virginia.
“I reject the idea that we need to ask people to choose between their jobs and their safety,” said President Obama in his speech to Congress introducing the American Jobs Act. “I reject the argument that says for the economy to grow, we have to roll back protections that ban hidden fees by credit card companies, or rules that keep our kids from being exposed to mercury, or laws that prevent the health insurance industry from shortchanging patients…We shouldn’t be in a race to the bottom, where we try to offer the cheapest labor and the worst pollution standards.  America should be in a race to the top.  And I believe we can win that race.”

Unfortunately, it seems that some legislators and candidates do not share that conviction. They need to stop scaring people and tackle the real, not imaginary, causes of the economic downturn while preserving our nation’s legacy of safeguarding its citizenry.