Cass Sunstein wants you to imagine his “soft paternalism” as that of a nurturing mother elephant, nudging you in her/his great and democratically inaccessible wisdom into better serving your own interests — or so implies the cover of his manifesto. His choice of the word “paternalism” is a bit funny, in light of the image. I guess calling it “soft maternalism” would have been too girly. Or maybe the whole mother elephant thing is bullshit window-dressing for what’s nothing more than a rationalization for an only slightly abashed pseudo-technocratic (and anti-democratic) power grab. Because what’s the matter with Kansas is that it’s been inadequately “cognitively infiltrated” by the powerful.
Naturally, David Brooks is on board, and all the more so since OIRA’s come under “withering attacks from the left.”
[T]he White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs and its administrator, Cass Sunstein, have been the subject of withering attacks from the left.
The organization Think Progress says the office is “appalling.” Mother Jones magazine is on the warpath. The Huffington Post published a long article studded with negative comments from unions and environmental activists.
If you step back and try to get some nonhysterical perspective….
Pause for a second. David Brooks’ colleagues, more and more, have bought into the standard web practice of providing links when they refer to articles — a fine practice spearheaded at the Times by Frank Rich. That Brooks refuses to adopt said practice makes me think Brooks doesn’t akshully want you to read said articles; to assess their relative hysteria/non-hysteria for yourselves. What better reason could Brooks give you to read the referenced articles and assess them for yourself?: the Think Progress hysteria; the Mother Jones hysteria; and I think this is the HuffPo hysteria he’s referring to, but I’m not sure. Anyone got a better candidate? Note that in all cases, major claims are substantiated. This will be important later.
…you come to the following conclusion:
Oh I do, do I?
This is a Democratic administration. Many of the major agency jobs are held by people who come out of the activist community who are not sensitive to the costs they are imposing on the economy.
Examples? I can think of a number of former industry lobbyists and academics. What exactly are these policies they’re proposing that are so insensitive to cost? Remember how those “hysterical” articles substantiated their claims?
[Parenthetical update: As the hysterics were pointing out, a large proportion of the programs kiboshed by OIRA have been related to fighting climate change. As the International Energy Agency's latest report put it in their most recent report, “… we are on an even more dangerous track to an increase of 6°C [11°F]…. Delaying action is a false economy: for every $1 of investment in cleaner technology that is avoided in the power sector before 2020, an additional $4.30 would need to be spent after 2020 to compensate for the increased emissions.” So I guess Brooks meant “insensitive to short-term costs within the false economy.” Seems like somewhat less of a condemnation put that way, isn’t it?]
President Obama has a political and philosophical incentive to restrain their enthusiasm.
Who-tf are you talking about??
Oh shit, here’s a thought: Maybe you actually understand substantiation itself as hysteria. That makes me sad. You and yours used to just call it shrill.
Anyway, in your language: more hysteria please!
He has, therefore, supported a strong review agency in the White House that does rigorous cost-benefit analyses to review proposed regulations and minimize their economic harm.
That’s nothing like any broad conclusion I would ever come to regarding OIRA. But go on…
This office, under Sunstein, is incredibly wonky. It is composed of career number-crunchers of no known ideological bent who try to measure the trade-offs inherent in regulatory action. Deciding among these trade-offs involves relying on both values and data.
Their ideological bent is unknown because they’re beyond any democratic accountability that might demand that they make it known. Or actually, their ideological bent isn’t really that unknown. Some of Think Progress’ hysteria:
During a six-month period, Sunstein’s office literally met with nearly 6,000 lobbyists, 65 percent of whom represented industry, compared to only 12 percent representing public interest groups.
Their ideology, one might fairly assume, is for whatever counts as normal in D.C. lobbyist culture.
But back to Brooks…
This office has tried to elevate the role of data so that every close call is not just a matter of pleasing the right ideological army.
Leaving aside the dubious assumption that data deployed under conditions of questionable intellectual honesty (and basically no transparency) is necessarily ideologically transcendent, you’re imputing a lot of great motives here. On whose word do you take them? Sunstein’s? Doesn’t power always imagine it has a great soul? (h-t) I’d really enjoy even just one small example of OIRA successfully doing what you’ve described. Or, you’re just gonna move on, aren’t you?
Over all, the Obama administration has significantly increased the regulatory costs imposed on the economy. But this is a difference of degree, not of kind.
One might point out that whatever regulatory costs have been imposed would have to be pretty fucking steep not to pale trembling in the shadow of the costs we’re still paying for three decades of radical deregulation.
Brooks goes on for a couple paragraphs about the costs of regulation under various recent Presidents, concluding with this:
George W. Bush issued regulations over eight years that cost about $60 billion. During its first two years, the Obama regulations cost between $8 billion and $16.5 billion, according to estimates by the administration itself, and $40 billion, according to data collected, more broadly, by the Heritage Foundation.
Not exactly sure how “cost of regulation” is estimated, but you can bet it involves making a lot of assumptions. You can further bank on the Heritage Foundation having made every cost-inflating choice with their assumptions they thought they could get away with.
Considering Obama’s fetish for jumping straight to what’s perceived as the ideological mean, I’m not sure the opposite could be said to be true.
Either way, links to reports again would be nice, Mr. Brooks.
Nor is it clear that these additional regulations have had a huge effect on the economy. Over the past 40 years, small business leaders have eloquently complained about the regulatory burden. And they are right to. But it’s not clear that regulations are a major contributor to the current period of slow growth.
The US Chamber of Commerce has “eloquently” complained about the regulatory burden. The US Chamber of Commerce is not a “small business leader.” It’s a lobbying organization representing “the interests of” about 300,000 businesses and organizations of “every size, sector, and region,” and counts among its membership a “handful” of “non-U.S.-based (foreign) companies.” I wonder what proportion of its budget is supplied by genuinely small businesses. There certainly aren’t many represented on their decidedly “big business” board of directors.
According to a recent study by McClatchy, of a random sampling of small business owners….
None of the business owners complained about regulation in their particular industries, and most seemed to welcome it. Some pointed to the lack of regulation in mortgage lending as a principal cause of the financial crisis that brought about the Great Recession of 2007-09 and its grim aftermath.
But that’s neither here nor there, is it Mister Brooks? It’s certainly nowhere in your column, which goes on…
The Bureau of Labor Statistics asks companies why they have laid off workers. Only 13 percent said regulations were a major factor.
That’s actually kind of similar. Doesn’t make your previous paragraph any less fatuous though.
That number has not increased in the past few years. According to the bureau, roughly 0.18 percent of the mass layoffs in the first half of 2011 were attributable to regulations.
Some of the industries that are the subject of the new rules, like energy and health care, have actually been doing the most hiring. If new regulations were eating into business, we’d see a slip in corporate profits. We are not.
There are two large lessons here. First, Republican candidates can say they will deregulate and, in some areas, that would be a good thing. But it will not produce a short-term economic rebound because regulations are not a big factor in our short-term problems.
And, in all likelihood, it’ll open the door still wider to the kind of systematic fraud that saw us into the Great Recession in the first place, but why consider that? Not like that’s relevant.
Second, it is easy to be cynical about politics and to say that Washington is a polarized cesspool. And it’s true that the interest groups and the fund-raisers make every disagreement seem like a life-or-death struggle. But, in reality, most people in government are trying to find a balance between difficult trade-offs. Whether it’s antiterrorism policy or regulatory policy, most substantive disagreements are within the 40 yard lines.
Obama’s regulations may be more intrusive than some of us would like. They are not tanking the economy.
This is your point? Really? Fuck you, Mr. Brooks. This was not what your column was about. This required none of the fatuous bullshit and unwarranted aspersions ladled all over the the front end and middle of your column to stand. No one reasonable disagrees with this. This is the most banal kind of common sense.
What your column was about, David Brooks, was sneaking a bunch of fatuous bullshit and unwarranted aspersions into the discourse under the banner of the most banal kind of common sense.