Oren Cass says that another illustration of what the administration is actually doing is what ensued when Congress voted down Obama’s much-vaunted cap-and-trade law intended to drastically cut fossil-fuel pollution. Obama’s response was to look for ways around Congress and its laws, saying that cap-and-trade was “just one way of skinning the cat.” The administration, Cass says, took “an approach to greenhouse gases that’s in direct conflict with what the Clean Air Act is intended to do. Carbon dioxide was never intended to be regulated as a pollutant,” as the Environmental Protection Agency has done. Because of EPA’s declaration, coal-fired and other power plants will have to shut down, energy costs will rise, and the cost in jobs will be huge, Romney maintains.
Romney has spelled out only a few steps that he would take on the environment and energy, and Cass concedes that the candidate has not come forward with specific regulatory plans for finance—“Stay tuned,” he says. Yet Romney’s record and views are fairly clear. “The Obama administration identifies what it thinks is a problem and says, ‘Let’s regulate,’ ” Cass says. Romney would move much more carefully and would direct regulation just to “market failures”—and only then after vigorous vetting. He supports the “Reins Act,” the nickname for a House bill formally known as the Regulations From the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act (sponsored in January by Rep. Geoff Davis, R-Ky.) that would require Congress to vote on any major regulation before it goes into effect. Romney also wants a “regulatory cap” that would hold at zero “the rate at which agencies could impose new regulations.” What that means is that if any agency sought to issue a regulation, even when required to by law, it would have to go through “a budget-like process” and identify offsetting cost reductions.
“Substantively [Romney is] not opposed to regulation. He recognizes there are market failures,” Cass says. “Regulation is an important part of a market economy.” But any new regulation should be directed to the “identification of market failures and to addressing those failures.” Cass adds that Romney has been a “very strong supporter of environmental protection. Even on power-plant emissions, actually dirty emissions affecting human health, he was second to no one in saying we should address this.”
Even so, Cass admits, Romney would not likely attempt a latter-day Kyoto or other international treaty restricting carbon emissions. Romney argues that developing countries will refuse to take part and that the best approach is to simply have science advance ways to curb global warming, which, Romney now says, may or may not be actually happening. (That assertion contradicts what he wrote in his 2010 book, No Apology, when he stated plainly: “I believe that climate change is occurring.”)
ROMNEY’S DAY ONE
On his first day in office, Romney says, he would issue an executive order paving the way for waivers on the health care law for all 50 states. He would repeal Dodd-Frank and replace it with “a streamlined regulatory framework” not yet identified. He would “eliminate the regulations promulgated in pursuit of the Obama administration’s costly and ineffective anti-carbon agenda.” He would trim legal liability in medical-malpractice cases, “preventing excessive damage awards, limiting class-action lawsuits to those situations where they are actually warranted, and empowering judges to sanction more effectively trial lawyers and parties who bring frivolous claims,” according to the Romney plan.
The Romneyites also belittle the Obama administration’s boast that, under a January 2011 executive order, the president called for a review of all rules—a “look back,” as it’s known—and found savings of $10 billion over the five years. That’s a pittance, the Romney camp scoffs, but, more important, it believes that the administration’s new rules are adding untold costs that vastly outweigh the savings. “To take just one example,” the Romney economic plan reads, “the EPA has proposed a new regulation that could designate nearly every county in the United States that monitors ozone levels as ‘out of attainment’ with the government standard. The result could be up to $90 billion in new costs on American industry annually.”
Because Romney has yet to issue a specific regulatory plan, it’s not easy to gauge his proposals. But measured against his record as Massachusetts governor, he talks a much better game than he has played. As Boston Globe reporters Michael Kranish and Scott Helman write in their book, The Real Romney, the new governor promised he would take a hard look at government bureaucracy, aided by his handpicked management consultants, and would implement reforms that would amount to “the most significant restructuring of state government in half a century.” But Romney’s cuts to the Massachusetts state bureaucracy turned out to be fairly modest. “After four years, he reduced the payroll of agencies under his direct control by 603 jobs, according to his administration’s tally. By contrast, a Republican predecessor, William F. Weld, had closed state hospitals, privatized services, and slashed about 7,700 jobs,” the authors write.