View Full Version : Sunstein Resigns

Gerry Clinchy
08-04-2012, 09:36 AM
From the NY Times

Sunstein's political leanings were questioned when he took his position as an Obama advisor.

As administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/inforeg_default), he reviewed the rules implementing President Obama’s health care act and the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory reform (http://topics.nytimes.com/topics/reference/timestopics/subjects/c/credit_crisis/financial_regulatory_reform/index.html?inline=nyt-classifier) law. He backed major environmental initiatives, including higher fuel efficiency (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/f/fuel_efficiency/index.html?inline=nyt-classifier) standards for cars and trucks and new toxic emissions rules for power plants. He approved the revamping of the decades-old food pyramid (it is now a “plate”), the tightening of salmonella (http://health.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/salmonella-enterocolitis/overview.html?inline=nyt-classifier) rules for eggs and a crackdown on prison rape. He midwifed a deal between appliance manufacturers and the Department of Energy to make refrigerators more energy efficient.

Few proposed rules escaped his gaze or his editor’s pen. Of the hundreds of regulations issued by the administration as of late last year, three-quarters were changed at OIRA, often at the urging of corporate interests, according to an analysis (http://www.progressivereform.org/articles/OIRA_Meetings_1111.pdf) from the Center for Progressive Reform (http://www.progressivereform.org/), a liberal-leaning group that monitors federal regulation. For rules from the Environmental Protection Agency, the figure was closer to 80 percent, the group found. In virtually every case, the rule was weakened, the group claimed. (Boggles my mind to think what the costs would have been if he hadn't weakened the rules.)

Professor Steinzor cited Mr. Sunstein’s role in the killing of the E.P.A.’s proposed tightening of the standard for ozone (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/17/science/earth/policy-and-politics-collide-as-obama-enters-campaign-mode.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all) pollution, the indefinite delay of rules governing coal (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/c/coal/index.html?inline=nyt-classifier) ash disposal and the withdrawal earlier this year of a proposed update of child agricultural labor standards.

Under Mr. Sunstein, the Obama administration has issued fewer regulations at this point in the president’s term than George W. Bush or Bill Clinton did. But compared with Mr. Bush’s first term, the Obama administration has finalized roughly 30 more “economically significant” regulations — those costing $100 million or more. (Might not be accurate if they are not including regulations associated with Obamacare.)

“Careful analysis of costs and benefits can help show when regulation is good, and when regulation isn’t so good,” he said in a recent interview. Any cost-benefit analysis, of course, includes subjective judgments about costs and difficult calculations, like the value of a human life.

These statistics can be misleading because the raw number of regulations an administration implements does not necessarily indicate whether the administration is more or less in favor of restraints on business.

In addition to reviewing proposed rules, Mr. Sunstein’s office also conducted a “look back” (http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/01/18/improving-regulation-and-regulatory-review-executive-order) at every regulation already on the books, with an eye toward slashing outdated rules and streamlining the system. The initiative has already started to bear fruit. Federal agencies have so far proposed 500 changes, with 100 enacted or close to being finalized (http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2012/06/04/lookback-progress).

Business lobbies and Republicans in Congress complain frequently about “job-killing” regulations, citing rules like the E.P.A.’s new standard for carbon emissions from power plants (recently upheld by a federal appeals court) and the Department of Labor’s new worker-safety rules. But Mr. Sunstein won grudging praise from conservatives, who said he was more approachable and realistic about the costs of doing business than many top officials in federal agencies.

“Cass Sunstein appeared to recognize the harm overly burdensome regulations inflict on economic growth and job creation — although he was not able to stop the tsunami of regulations enacted by the Obama administration,” Representative Darrell Issa of California, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said in a statement.

Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, has accused Mr. Obama of causing business uncertainty and stifling economic growth through overzealous regulation. He promised (http://www.mittromney.com/sites/default/files/shared/Regulatory.pdf) to repeal the Obama-era regulatory laws and hold the cost of new regulations at zero.

The polymathic Mr. Sunstein has written or co-written dozens of books and articles on subjects ranging from climate change (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/science/topics/globalwarming/index.html?inline=nyt-classifier) to animal rights and is one of the most frequently cited legal thinkers in America. One of his most influential popular works, written with Richard H. Thaler, the behavioral economist, was “Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/24/books/review/Friedman-t.html?pagewanted=all) The book’s thesis is that gentle, low-cost signals — like putting fruit at the beginning rather than the end of a cafeteria line, or making participation in retirement savings plans the default position rather than an option — are more effective than the heavy hand of government regulation.

Since Sunstein was a "numbers" guy, it makes me wonder if when he actually saw what regulation costs in the real world, it had an impact on his views? At the very least, he seemed to take his responsibilities very seriously & worked hard. After the GSA scandal, that, alone, is refreshing.

08-04-2012, 12:30 PM
Sunstein was/is a dangerous guy, definitely behind the administration's anti gun agenda....not sorry to see him go, figure that he will turn up somewhere else in another capacity...