A recent op-ed is completely correct in its assumptions that anti-regulations rhetoric from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is incessantly talking about regulations killing jobs and the economy. Big business is also having a field day with this messaging and has backed presidential candidate Mitt Romney to say that he will tear down the President’s, “vast edifice of regulations.”
There is no, “vast edifice of regulations,” created by the President. My blog from last week highlights key rules that are still languishing in the OMB edifice know as OIRA. And where, the Obama administration has tried to be proactive in adopting landmark rules such as the mercury emissions rule or where they have set up an innovative consumer products safety website, they have had big business take huge punches at these protections by threatening litigation to unravel them.
Presidential candidate Romney is open about his position on regulations. He thinks economic growth is the be all and end all–that the economy and business profits should always take precedence over public health and consumer safety protections.
However I think Mr. Romney should have a serious think before he takes the American public down the path of deregulation. He should take a hard look at China, the role model for deregulation before he advocates that we adopt this approach.
Thanks to our democratic system and strong consumer advocacy we have had strong public health and consumer safety rules in American since the 1970’s. Right now power and utility industries complain about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as an example of wasteful government spending and overregulation, but the reality is that our regulatory system is what separates us from China, where air pollution and lead poising are normal and environmental problems eat away the quality of life in ways the U.S. has not seen in over half a century. The Chinese people are paying a high price for a weak regulatory and consumer protection system. Their Cancer rates are soaring, Chinese children are exposed to higher amounts of lead and mercury pollution than our children and they likely have lower average IQs and more neurological and behavioral problems.
Right now strong public health and consumer protections give us economically the upper hand. In reality strong public health and consumer protections are necessary for business to thrive. People are healthier and stronger when the air and water are cleaner. This means we spend less on health care and lost productivity due to illness, and more on the products and services produced by businesses. But clean water is also needed in industry. From coal mining to semiconductor manufacturing, water is needed. In China water pollution combined with global warming has meant their water sources are diminishing and the remaining supplies are so polluted that many provinces struggle to find enough water to keep their factories running. Chinese officials also admit that around 300 million rural citizen–the size of the U.S. population–do not have access to safe drinking water, something that all Americans take for granted.
Big business is only thinking about the almighty dollar and would prefer it if Americans forgot public health and consumer protections keep the air and water clean, improve the safety of consumer products, prevent destructive financial practices and are needed for businesses to flourish and thrive. Rules and Regulations are good for American public and they are good for American business too.
* Co-written with Nasima Hossain, U.S. PIRG Public Health Advocate