Obama’s Regulatory Overhaul

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


In a clear attempt to head off attacks on the administration’s regulatory agenda, President Obama today issued a new executive order and several supporting memorandums outlining the administration’s plans to review and streamline regulations from all federal agencies. Obama also took to the pages of today’s Wall Street Journal to discuss his administration’s plans for a “government-wide review of the rules already on the books to remove out-dated regulations that stifle job creation and make our economy less competitive.”

The executive order, Obama writes, will “ensure that regulations protect our safety, health and environment while promoting economic growth,” and will seek to “root out regulations that conflict, that are not worth the cost, or that are just plain dumb.”

In a call with reporters, a senior administration official says that the order had been in the works for “months, if not over a year.” But the pressure on the administration on regulations has certainly increased in the past few months. The new Republican leadership in the House has asked business interests to hand over a wish-list for regulatory cutbacks. The Business Roundtable also released its priorities on the matter last month, a lengthy list of regulations its members would like to see overhauled.

The order directs agencies “consider costs and ways to reduce burdens for American businesses when they develop rules,” said the administration official. It also directs them to revisit the thousands of rules already on the books to evaluate which need to be eliminated, streamlined, or expanded. Agencies are expected submit a preliminary plan to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs for responding to this directive within 120 days.

While there is a clear appeal to business interests in the move, the administration was also sure to outline one key example of success it has already had in making regulations less complicated—but one that actually had the impact of drastically improving health and environmental standards. The administration’s rule for automobiles, announced in 2009, was the first to combine fuel economy standards from the Department of Transportation, greenhouse gas emission standards from the Environmental Protection Agency, and a patchwork of state regulations into a single federal standard—adopting the highest of the standards at the federal level with the endorsement of all key stakeholders.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest