VINEYARD HAVEN, Massachusetts -- Not even an earthquake that was felt here at this vacation retreat could prevent another afternoon on the golf course for President Obama, who is also trying to take a swing at burdensome government red tape that may be choking off economic growth.
Cass Sunstein, administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, revealed Tuesday the administration is hoping to help businesses in America save billions of dollars by wiping out or scaling back hundreds of government regulations.
"Over the next five years, the monetized savings from just a fraction of the reforms announced today are likely to exceed $10 billion," Sunstein wrote on the White House's blog. "Perhaps more important, today's plans explicitly recognize that the regulatory lookback is not a one-time endeavor. Agencies will continue to revisit existing rules, asking whether they should be updated, streamlined, or repealed.
Officials at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce quickly called the "lookback" on old regulations a step in the right direction but said it did not go nearly enough given the mountain of new regulations the President created with health care and financial reform.
"The administration's findings and determinations, on their own, are a worthy effort at making technical changes to the regulatory process, but the results of this lookback will not have a material impact on the real regulatory burdens facing businesses today," said Bill Kovacs, the chamber's senior vice president of environment, tech, and regulatory affairs.
Chamber officials note The Affordable Care Act created 159 new agencies, commissions, panels, and other bodies. The Dodd-Frank financial regulatory reform has 447 new rules that either required or suggested.
"Well I appreciate the fact that President Obama has directed the administration to address regulator overreach, but frankly I think this is almost the fox in the hen house," said Rep. Geoff Davis (R-Ky.). "When we look at the bigger picture, there's a huge encroachment in the private sector and our communities with unfunded mandates and cost of regulations. It was 1.75 trillion last year with over 4000 regulations in the queue ready to implement this year."
But the White House believes the President is merely delivering on a promise he made last week during his bus tour through three states.
"Show us particular [regulations] that are getting in the way of you hiring," Obama said a town hall in Illinois. "If red tape is not improving situation, let's figure out how to get rid of them."
That vow came after the President was twice pressed by people in the heartland about excessive government regulations adding to all of the other stresses on the economy. One soy bean farmer noted he would prefer to start his day in a "tractor cab" instead of at a desk "filling out permits and forms" to comply with government mandates.
The President raised some eyebrows in the crowd when he said industry lobbyists tend to exaggerate horror stories about regulations in order to whip up opposition to legitimate mandates.
"Here's what i suggest-- If you hear something's happening but it hasn't happened, don't always believe what you hear," Obama told the crowd. "I'm serious about that."
But Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said Tuesday that the facts speak for themselves, noting that the administration proposed $9.5 billion in new government regulations in just July. So the proposed savings of this week's initiative -- $10 billion over five years -- could essentially be wiped out in only one month.
"The administration just unveiled a plan for publicity - - not a plan for [economic] growth," said Barrasso, adding that "small businesses across the country are overwhelmed by the hundreds of new regulations stemming from the President's health care law, financial reform bill" and the Environmental Protection Agency.