Following Tim Dickinson’s Rolling Stone article about what Lisa Jackson is accomplishing at EPA, John B. Judis publishes a piece in the New Republic about the Obama “revolution” going on as Obama appointees at multiple federal agencies enthusiastically enforce laws intended to keep our air, food, drus, and workplaces safe. Judis contrasts previous Republican agency heads to Obama appointees as EPA, OSHA, FDA, and FEMA, and rattles off the budget increases that will allow several agencies to step up enforcement activities.
I’m not as optimistic as Judis that Cass Sunstein’s appointment to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs signals a complete about-face from the previous administration’s roadblock-to-regulation approach. (Rena Steinzor and her colleagues at the Center for Progressive Reform have voiced concerns about Sunstein; see here and here, for instance.) Judis is right, though, to highlight OIRA as a key determinant in the face of federal agencies’ regulatory activities, and he provides an interesting summary of the use of cost-benefit analysis over the past few decades.
An otherwise optimistic article ends with a note of warning. Judis cautions:
In 1993, Clinton, too, attempted to revive the regulatory agencies by appointing well-qualified personnel and increasing funding. But, after Republicans took control of Congress in 1994, they managed to cut Clinton’s budget proposals and delay or block the implementation of regulations. If Democrats lose Congress this November, the same thing could happen again. In that case, what has been Obama’s most significant achievement to date would come to naught–and liberals would have yet another reason to despair.
Even if history does repeat itself this way, there are still several months in which newly energized federal agencies can do a lot of good.