More on Regulations and Jobs

A blog post by Stephen Herzenberg, originally published at Third and State.

On Wednesday, WITF’s Radio Smart Talk hosted two anti-regulation advocates to explain why regulations are, well, bad. The listeners of the show who called in did a good job underscoring the critical importance of effective regulation and exposing the lack of evidence for the views of the show’s guests.

I tried to call in myself, but time ran out before I could join the discussion. Had my call been taken, I would have pointed listeners to the writing of Bruce Bartlett, a former high-level policy person in the Reagan and Bush administrations. In a column tellingly entitled “Misrepresentations, Regulations, and Jobs,” Bartlett points out that “no hard evidence is offered” for the claim that new regulations are holding back investment and job creation: “it is simply asserted as self-evident and repeated endlessly throughout the conservative echo chamber.”

Bartlett goes on to explain that “the number of layoffs nationwide caused by government regulation is minuscule and shows no evidence of getting worse during the Obama administration. Lack of demand for business products and services is vastly more important.”

A more balanced panel of Smart Talk guests might have led to a richer discussion of a real long-term issue — how to implement regulations effectively, using carrots and technical assistance as well as penalties to ensure high labor, environmental, and compliance standards, while helping businesses pursue productive and profitable competitive strategies. (To Smart Talk’s credit, a follow-up show on the thousands of jobs that will be created by new pollution control regulations aired Friday.)

The short-term economic priority, of course, should be how to strengthen the economic recovery and lower unemployment — which has nothing to do with regulations and everything to do with overcoming federal and state fixation on spending cuts that reduce economic growth.