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On Capitol Hill, Public Citizen brings the heat of reality to a GOP freeze on regulatory safeguards

The U.S. House of Representatives refuses to let up on its quixotic mission to destroy public safeguards. Its latest incarnation is H.R. 4078, the “Regulatory Freeze for Jobs Act of 2012,” a misguided bill that seeks to halt regulatory protections until the unemployment rate is equal or less than six percent.

photo by Derek Keats vis flickr

It was the topic of the hour at a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Courts, Commercial and Administrative Law, featuring two professors associated with the Hoover Institute, Allan Meltzler and John Taylor, who were there to bolster a weak argument that by “freezing” regulations, somehow all of our country’s jobs problems would magically disappear.

Fortunately, Public Citizen President Rob Weissman was there to speak on behalf of reality.

Weissman, who also serves as co-chair of the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards,  reminded the subcommittee it was regulatory failures that helped create the current jobs crisis. He said a freeze on public protections not only would fail to create jobs, but would place the economy in serious jeopardy, particularly if newly created financial regulations were weakened or blocked. A little more on that in minute.

It was heartening to hear that we are not alone in the world of facts and reality. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), who is on the Judiciary Committee but not a member of this subcommittee, stopped by and gave his take on the bill in question. He noted how the bill wrongly attempts to link regulations with employment.

This is legislatively unwise because the measure fails to acknowledge the fact that regulations play a critical role in ensuring the health and safety of Americans, as well as the economic well-being of our nation.”

What he did there — in diplomatic, lawmaker-speak — was call the bill stupid.

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) said the proposal “is an instrument that creates a mistaken cure for a problem that does not exist. There is no ascertainable link between regulation and unemployment.”

Cohen began a point-by-point fisking of the bill, and then stopped himself.

This bill is so bad on its face, to go into the particulars of what would and if happen on such a poorly-drawn bill is not worthy of the time of this committee.”

What he did there — in diplomatic, lawmaker-speak — was call the bill stupid, too.

In five points, Weissman laid out why “freezing” safeguards places our nation at risk:

  • The evidence does not support the claim that regulation is a significant problem for job preservation or job creation.
  • The jobs crisis we now face is a tribute to regulatory failure in the financial sector.
  • Regulatory protections make our nation stronger, safer and more just.
  • A regulatory freeze would impeded everyday governmental functions (including the issuing of such normal actions like issuance of bird hunting rules, stop loss pay for veterans and immigration visas).
  • Strengthening the system of regulatory safeguards strengthens America

There is a need for regulatory reform in this nation, but members in the House that keep on sponsoring bills like H.R. 4078 have it all wrong. We need reform to facilitate strong controls on corporate wrongdoing (see Wall Street crash of 2008, BP oil spill disaster, Massey mine explosion), as well as stronger enforcement of the rules that are already on the books.

In short, what this country needs is a system of regulatory protections that serve the interests of the public and not the corporations that need to be regulated.

You can read Weissman’s full testimony here. You can watch the entire hearing here.