Sunday, August 15, 2004

Not a Dime’s Worth of Difference

For those who, like Ralph Nader, think that there is no difference between the major party candidates, consider the regulatory process, which largely operates under the media radar, but affects all of us. Interesting in-depth story in the WaPo today.

In the past 3 1/2 years, OSHA, the branch of the Labor Department in charge of workers' well-being, has eliminated nearly five times as many pending standards as it has completed. It has not started any major new health or safety rules, setting Bush apart from the previous three presidents, including Ronald Reagan.

It seems an easy bet that John Kerry, if elected, would have plenty of new regulations for us. You may think that is good, or bad, but it represents an enormous difference. As for me, I am going to send another contribution to Ralph Nader’s campaign. Given the way that the economy is sputtering, the forces of anti-regulation need all the help they can get, and (strangely) Nader is the best friend of regulatory rollback right now. You go, Ralph!.

This reminds me of my first “professional” job, at the Federal Trade Commission in the first Reagan Administration (1984). In the afternoon, we would take a break from our exhausting day of blocking asinine regulations, and go have a big frozen yogurt at a place right beside the entrance to the Washington School for Secretaries. Sitting there having a yogurt, watching dozens of attractive women walk by, we would sometimes say to each other, “You know, this is criminal. We are just stealing our money.”

But then one of us would state the standard defense, one all of us believed fervently: “Not true! If it weren’t for us, occupying these crucial desks, they might very hire someone who would write new regulations! We are doing God’s work here, gentlemen! We are constipating the intestines of the cow of regulation!”

And then we would all click our foam yogurt cups, and argue about where we would go for happy hour that night. Now, those were the days.