Friday, January 31, 2014

Politico: The President's Executive Action and Regulatory Agenda

For those who try to avoid the muck of U.S. political commentary, Politico leans left, although you couldn't tell that from this series of what appears to be actual journalism. Thanks to the reader who brought it to my attention.
From Politico Pro:

Obama’s power play
Barack Obama and the series logo are shown. | M.Scott Mahaskey/iStock Photos
Part of a POLITICO Pro Special Report series on the Obama administration’s executive action and regulatory agenda.

In an FDA office building in suburban Maryland, the bureaucrats gather over coffee to draft rules meant to squeeze the trans fat out of snack foods.

Four blocks from the White House, in an EPA conference room: more bureaucrats, more meetings, more drafting of rules, these aimed at forcing industrialists to spend billions cutting carbon to fend off global warming.

Congress? Who needs Congress?

Americans heard President Barack Obama declare this week that he intends to bypass the gridlocked Hill to get things done on his own. What they didn’t hear: just how far he’s actually pushing his executive authority.

An in-depth examination of the administration’s actions and plans, agency by agency, regulation by regulation, reveals an executive power play that’s broad and bold — and intensely ambitious. Far more than he let on in the State of the Union, the president has marshaled the tools of his office to advance policies, many unabashedly liberal, that push deep into everyday life for tens of millions of Americans.

He wants to change how power plants operate. And what we buy for lunch. How we travel to work. And how our kids learn math. How our gasoline is formulated. How we light our aquariums.

Already, the president’s team has enacted 300 economically significant regulations, far more than Bill Clinton, George W. Bush or Ronald Reagan did in comparable periods. Some of those rules are driven by the Affordable Care Act and Dodd-Frank banking reform, the two big laws Obama pushed through Congress early in his first term, when he had Democratic majorities in both houses. But there is far more.

When Congress wouldn’t support a climate change bill, the administration moved on its own to push the energy industry away from coal and toward green alternatives. The executive branch found a way to drive tremendous change in public schools, too — though education is typically under local control — by holding tight to billions in much-needed funding, and doling it out only to states that pledged to follow the administration’s prescriptions for reform. A tweak to a transportation grant formula even gave the administration influence over local urban planning; streetcars, all of a sudden, are popping up everywhere.
And it’s not Congress, but the executive branch, that’s on the verge of making Hershey’s reformulate its Reese’s Pieces. (Out, out, trans fat!)

As he tees up for his final three years, Obama is pushing to take his executive power further still, with the most ambitious regulatory agenda in decades. Executive actions now underway could shut down for-profit colleges that don’t meet the administration’s definition of success — even if they’re popular with students. They could raise the price of products ranging from trucks to furnace fans to manufactured housing to aquarium lights, by requiring them to be made more energy-efficient. The executive agenda even reaches the fires of the family hearth, with the Environmental Protection Agency planning strict new requirements for home wood stoves.

Whether American guns can be sold abroad. How smokeless tobacco can be marketed. Which nonprofits can stage get-out-the-vote drives. What constitutes a single serving of potato chips.
And, perhaps, just how salty those chips should be.

All this, and much more, will depend in large part on the behind-the-scenes churning of the federal bureaucracy — managed, or by many accounts micro-managed, by the White House.

Obama has pushed back on complaints from business leaders that he is overstepping and overregulating. His staff notes that Obama has issued fewer executive orders than previous presidents and describes his approach to regulation as pragmatic. “The president does not believe that we have to choose between protecting the health, welfare and safety of Americans and promoting economic growth, job creation, competitiveness and innovation,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said. “We can do both and we are doing both.” Allies agree, saying with Congress mired in gridlock, executive action is vital. “We face a lengthy to-do list of public health and safety priorities,” said Gynnie Robnett, of the Center for Effective Government. Opponents, however, blast Obama for arrogant overreach....MUCH MORE
Also at Politico: "Why the rich are freaking out".

See also our Tuesday post: "Ahead of the SOTU: The List of Unilateral Actions President Obama May Take on Climate and Energy or How To Make Money Off This Stuff"