Regulations: Killing Jobs or Saving lives?

Much of the GOP rhetoric of late includes threats to remove regulations on business under the guise that regulations are job killers. In fact, some Democrats don’t necessarily disagree with that position. Further, it is a clever misdirection of the true cause of our country’s economic decline, to blame industry regulation while conveniently neglecting to remember greedy banks and hedge fund managers.

In August, former Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln, proposed that regulations can be harmful to businesses. The EPA recently announced a new ground level ozone standard which Lincoln claims, “…will yield a relatively small benefit when compared to the $19 billion to $90 billion that the rule is expected to cost the economy”.

Sidney A. Shapiro, University Distinguished Chair in Law, Wake Forest University School of Law, points out that the report, “The Impact of Regulatory Costs on Small Firms”, on which most regulatory critisms are based, as is Lincoln’s, is one-sided and flawed. In his study, “Setting the Record Straight: The Crain and Crain Report on Regulatory Costs”, he points out that Crain and Crain used only the cost of regulation without calculating the returned financial benefit. Further, they continue to without much of the methodology used to produce their figures.

Richard Revesz, Dean, New York University School of Law, also disputes the belief of economic harm  and states, “Americans gain more than a trillion dollars in economic benefits every year thanks to the Clean Air Act. If attempts to slow down or roll back these protections are successful, American families will lose huge amounts of value in return for a paltry donation to the industries that generate dangerous pollutants. Without these public health protections, corporate shareholders may face slightly lower compliance costs, but the American public will pick up a hefty tab.”

Susan Dudley, the former White House regulatory chief under President George W. Bush, suggests that the real metric of a regulation is not how many jobs a regulation creates, but rather the benefit to the public good when compared to the cost to implement. She offers an amusing example which seems to echo the belief of most anti-regulation supporters, “It would be easy to think of a regulation that ‘created jobs’ that didn’t benefit society…[such as] requiring that all construction be done with a teaspoon.”

Interestingly enough, while 2012 presidential candidates continue to hammer on existing regulations necessary burdens to industry and as job killers to appease their ever more radical Tea Party supporters, the economy and job creation are not the issues that the Tea Party has with the EPA. Instead, they believe that the EPA enacts regulatory “legislation” without congressional approval on each specific item, thereby wielding authority not granted to them by the constitution, a view that is inline with their strict constitutionalist views. So while the Tea Party leaders may hold this belief, their rabid followers have been caught up in the wake of election rhetoric and have embraced destruction of the EPA has a cure to the country’s economic woes.

Concerning the implementation of stricter smog standards, “Continued delay costs the nation between 4,000 and 12,000 lives; 58,000 asthma attacks; and 21,000 hospital and emergency room visits annually. With lives at stake, can we really afford to let polluters continue to have their way?”, notes Peter Iwanowicz, Assistant Vice President with the American Lung Association.

Experts agree that removing regulation will not bolster the economy, but will, in fact, decrease public health which is far more detrimental to our fragile economy. Realistically, breathing dirty air or drinking dirtier water would cause more Americans to seek medical attention. In these difficult economic times, the cost will be shifted from the factory that doesn’t want to implement regulations which make the public healthier to the taxpayer that will have to bear the burden of that additional cost of people seeking medical care without adequate insurance.

Of course, not if Tea Party supporters can help it. If they had their way, the American public would pick up no additional cost, but rather just, “let ’em die”.