Obama Orders Review of All Government Regulations


President Obama today is signing an executive order to start a government-wide review of federal regulations, in yet another overture to a business community that has been tepid in its support of the administration.

The president announced the regulatory overhaul in a Wall Street Journal op-ed in which he argues his administration has always strived to strike the right balance between enforcing commonsense regulations and allowing the free market to run efficiently. He acknowledged that some regulations are "placing unreasonable burdens on business" but also noted that a lack of regulation in the financial markets "nearly led to the collapse of the financial markets and a full-scale Depression."

The regulatory review will seek to eliminate rules that stifle job creation, are redundant, or are just "plain dumb," the president wrote. He gave the example of the recently-eliminated EPA rule that designated saccharin -- an artificial sweetener commonly added to coffee, considered safe by the FDA -- as a hazardous waste.

The review will also seek to add regulations that cover "obvious gaps," the president said, such as procedures to stop preventable infections in hospitals.

"We are seeking more affordable, less intrusive means to achieve the same ends--giving careful consideration to benefits and costs," Mr. Obama wrote. "This means writing rules with more input from experts, businesses and ordinary citizens. It means using disclosure as a tool to inform consumers of their choices, rather than restricting those choices. And it means making sure the government does more of its work online, just like companies are doing."

The executive order also directs federal agencies to do more to account for and reduce the burdens regulations may place on small businesses.

"Despite a lot of heated rhetoric, our efforts over the past two years to modernize our regulations have led to smarter--and in some cases tougher--rules to protect our health, safety and environment," Mr. Obama wrote. "Yet according to current estimates of their economic impact, the benefits of these regulations exceed their costs by billions of dollars. This is the lesson of our history: Our economy is not a zero-sum game."

Mr. Obama's executive order, as well as the corresponding Wall Street Journal op-ed, give another indicator that the president is seeking to repair his relationship with the business community, which has been at times hostile to his administration, especially in the wake of health care reform.

The president will be speaking at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce next month, and he recently named William Daley, a bank executive with a solid reputation in the business community, to be his chief of staff.

Regardless of whether the president had signed this executive order, government regulations were expected to come under new scrutiny this year in the House Oversight and Government Reform committee, under the leadership of

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.). Today Issa praised the president's call for a government-wide regulatory review.

"I applaud President Obama for joining what must be an effort that stretches beyond ideological entrenchments to identify the regulatory impediments that have prevented real and sustained job growth in the private sector," Issa said in a statement. "The anti-business policies of the past have hurt job creators, small and large. It's in the interest of every American that we create a modern, regulatory environment that fosters economic growth and makes U.S. companies globally competitive. I look forward to providing the President with insights gained from our current effort to hear directly from job creators about what they perceive as barriers standing in the way of their ability to create jobs."

Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue released his own statement calling the president's executive order a "positive first step."

Analysis from CBS MoneyWatch.com