Can We Give “Job-Killing Regulations” a Rest?

Politicians love to go for the easy applause line and lately, in Washington, that has meant decrying “job-killing regulations.”

Republican candidates for president have all gone for this crowd-pleaser.

  • Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has promised to “tear down the vast edifice of regulations the Obama administration has imposed on the economy.”
  • Texas Governor Rick Perry claims he would halt all regulations and impose a sunset so that they would automatically expire.
  • Herman Cain claims that eliminating regulations would provide “an immediate boost for our weakened economy.”

Even President Obama has at times appeared to buy-in to this notion, ordering every agency to review its existing regulations to eliminate burdens on business, even though such analysis would have been completed when the regulation was first written.

It may be a crowd-pleaser, but it turns out that it simply isn’t true that regulations kill jobs. The Washington Post talked with some of the country’s top economists and experts on the relationship between job creation and regulations. The conclusion?

“Overall impact on employment is minimal.”

The truth is that regulations can impact jobs but don’t have much effect when it comes to employment. That means that a particular regulation might reduce jobs in one industry but create them in another. For example, a clean air regulation might reduce jobs at a dirty coal-fired power plant and create new jobs at a clean-burning natural gas plant. But, looking at the big picture, employers report that only 0.3% of layoffs are due to “government regulations/intervention.” That’s small potatoes compared with the 25% of jobs lost due to reduced demand for products and services in our weak economy.

While they may not have a big impact on jobs, regulations do have a big impact in a lot of other areas, namely in protecting workers, the public and the environment. So, let’s put “job-killing regulations” to rest. If our politicians are looking for new descriptions, how about “life-saving, people-protecting, society-benefiting regulations”? It’s not so catchy, but it has the benefit of being true.

Weekly Mulch: Coal Ash in Our Stockings

Editor’s Note: Due to the holidays, the Weekly Mulch will appear on Thursday afternoon both this week and next week. We’ll resume regular Friday morning posts in 2011.

by Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium Blogger

It’s the naughty children who get coal in their stockings, and it seems like Americans must have been naughty this year. Because across the country, we’re awash with coal, carcinogens, and other toxins. And our government is not doing to much to change that.

Waste not

After the massive coal ash spill in Tennessee two years ago, the EPA began working on more stringent regulation of the waste, a byproduct of coal mining. But, as Kate Sheppard reports at Mother Jones, the industry has been pressuring the administration to adopts weaker regulations than it could.

“Two years after the largest toxic spill in the nation’s history, there is still no regulation of deadly coal ash dumps—nor is there clear direction from EPA on the timing or content of a final rule,” Lisa Evans, senior administrative counsel for Earthjustice, told Sheppard.  “For the communities enduring damage from aging ponds and leaking landfills, time has run out. There is no reason on earth that their health should be compromised by such an easily avoidable harm.”

What’s in the water?

Coal ash is one of those pollutants that clearly poses a problem. It looks dangerous. But not all pollutants are so obviously dangerous. This week, for instance, the Environmental Working Group, an environmental health non-profit group, released a report showing that much of the country’s tap water is contaminated with the carcinogen hexavalent chromium, with levels high enough to pose a risk to human health.

“Exposure in tap water has been linked to cancers of the stomach and gastrointestinal tract in both animals and people,” Rebecca Sutton, a scientist for the Environmental Working Group, wrote at AlterNet. Thirty-one of the 35 cities that the group examined had dangerously high levels of the contaminants in the tap water.

How did this happen? As Sarah Parsons explains at Change.org, “The reason so much chromium-6 winds up in tap water is that industries spew it into waterways, utilities fail to test for the substance, and the EPA doesn’t regulate it in drinking water.”

What the EPA does do, Parsons reports, is limit the total chromium in drinking water, “the combined amount of hexavalent chromium and trivalent chromium.” She explains, “The problem is that trivalent chromium is actually good for you—in fact, it’s necessary for metabolism. Hexavalent chromium, on the other hand, is a noxious carcinogen.”

Moving forward

These prevalent toxins are just two reminders that, for all their successes in recent decades, environmentalists still have much work ahead of them. How should they approach that work? Earth Island Journal’s Jason Mark, considering lessons from the 1980s-era environmental leaders, who focused on moving toward the center and working within the confines of D.C. politics, offers this thought: “The new leaders of 2010 say what we need is less focused group messaging and inside-the-Beltway maneuverings, and more heartfelt spirit and energy directed encouraged at the grassroots. I hope their instincts are right. Because at this point I don’t think we can wait another 25 years to figure this stuff out.”

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

Good news for opponents of California's Prop 90

I haven't seen a poll in over a month, but there are some clear signs of hope that this thing with go down in flames.  Proposition 90 (the "Protect Our Homes Act")  is of course a measure that is held out as eminent domain reform in response to the decision of Kelo v. New London in which real property was seized and sold to developers as "public use."

I have already discussed the measure in more detail right here.  I followed up on my own blog with a series of horror stories from Oregon, where a similar measure has already passed.  And I think now the tide may be turning in California.  I hope it's also turning in the 5 other states with similar measures set for this fall's election.

It's generally accepted wisdom that the proposition's early leads in polls will be diminished once voters learn the details.  The normally conservative San Diego Union Tribune has registered its opposition.  As it happens, the State Senate Republican leader Dan Ackerman is publicly opposing the measure.  Nevermind that he appeals to his constituency by indirectly attacking trial lawyers:

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