Guest Blog: Rep. Blackburn on Why Obama Can’t Regulate His Regulators

Rep. Marsha Blackburn /

Bureaucrats have bolted a restrictor plate to our economic engine and flagged private sector job growth to the pits. The same independent government agencies, that use explicit intimidation and threats of government taking to impose “voluntary” regulations on job creators, aren’t even willing to hold themselves to the same standard. They refuse.

That was the theme of yesterday’s hearing in the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. Members of Congress were exploring President Obama’s Executive Order 13563 and its non-application to the independent agencies.

The independent agencies have refused to “voluntarily” comply with the order. Obama’s modest order would simply require a justification of the costs and burdens of new regulations and a retrospective analysis of existing rules. However, these agencies believe their political ends justify their regulatory means. They believe their insulation from traditional checks and balances gives them a blank check to be hyper-regulators in pursuit of hyper-activist causes.

It’s important to understand the reason why regulators are resisting voluntary compliance with Obama’s order: they can’t justify their costly rules and mandates. Congress and the American people are right to raise more questions instead of delegating more power and authority. The reality is, some bureaucrats in Washington are facing an existential challenge where, to justify their purpose, they invent new problems and manipulate evidence to superimpose new regulations from everything to lead in 4-wheelers to children’s cereals. Just last month CPSC Commissioner Nancy Nord blew the whistle on this culture of hyper-regulation in Wall Street Journal:

… we are regulating at an unprecedented pace and have pretty much abandoned any efforts to weigh societal benefits from regulations with the costs imposed on the public… under this administration, we have ignored the recent direction to look for and eliminate burdensome regulations. We are just too busy putting out new regulations. I have repeatedly requested that the agency do cost-benefit analysis on our various regulations only to have that request voted down by my fellow commissioners on a party-line basis. Consequently, we are issuing regulations without having done the necessary work to understand the impact of our actions both on those being regulated and on the public. As a result we have imposed regulatory burdens and caused people to lose their livelihoods without a real payback in terms of safety. At the CPSC, common sense regulation doesn’t even get a head-nod.”

We see the same problem across the independent agencies. When I asked FCC Commissioner McDowell if the FCC had to satisfy a more robust justification of its net neutrality orders using market power analysis or a cost-benefit analysis whether the Commission would have reached the same conclusion he responded simply: “Yes, because the process was outcome driven.” His response was an indictment of the FCC, proving that we need to move these agencies away from being driven by activists pursuing social outcomes to being grounded in regulatory humility and statutory obedience. The FCC’s refusal to even identify market failure of the Internet is just another example of why Congress needs to take up my Internet Freedom Act (H.R. 96). We need to do so in order to free ourselves from the FCC’s plans to regulate our positive online experience through their proposed Internet Iron Curtain.

With today’s news that the country has moved back to 9.2% unemployment, now is the time to get the government off our backs and focus on jobs. A recent report by the Phoenix Center for Advanced Legal and Economic Public Policy Studies found in their econometric analysis that:

“Even a small 5% reduction in the regulatory budget (about $2.8 billion) is estimated to result in about $75 billion in expanded private-sector GDP each year, with an increase in employment by 1.2 million jobs annually. On average, eliminating the job of a single regulator grows the American economy by $6.2 million and nearly 100 private sector jobs annually. Conversely, each million dollar increase in the regulatory budget costs the economy 420 private sector jobs.”

Conservatives understand that these agencies don’t know how to make the best individual decisions for us: what foods we eat, what toys we buy, what privacy setting we want on our mobile devices, or what light bulbs we prefer. Any new regulations must require concrete examples of market failure and true consumer harm because there is no room for additional burdens on American industries and consumers without showing just cause.

We must get the independent agencies to comply with Executive Order 13563 – it’s just the first step to apply a very modest and narrow approach at getting away from more big government. Tell Congress to support efforts that seek robust regulatory reform, greater accountability, and fewer top-down approaches.

Representative Marsha Blackburn represents the 7th District of Tennessee in the United States House of Representatives.

The views expressed by guest bloggers on the Foundry do not necessarily reflect the views of The Heritage Foundation.