Below the radar, beyond the loudly visible fights in Congress, President Obama is enacting a complex and far reaching regulatory agenda that will affect your wallets and your lives in untold ways. In many cases, likely, forever.
According to a major new investigation by Politico:
Far more than he let on in the State of the Union, the president has marshaled the tools of his office to advance policies, many unabashedly liberal, that push deep into everyday life for tens of millions of Americans.
He wants to change how power plants operate. And what we buy for lunch. How we travel to work. And how our kids learn math. How our gasoline is formulated. How we light our aquariums.
As he tees up for his final three years, Obama is pushing to take his executive power further still, with the most ambitious regulatory agenda in decades. Executive actions now underway could shut down for-profit colleges that don’t meet the administration’s definition of success — even if they’re popular with students. They could raise the price of products ranging from trucks to furnace fans to manufactured housing to aquarium lights, by requiring them to be made more energy-efficient. The executive agenda even reaches the fires of the family hearth, with the Environmental Protection Agency planning strict new requirements for home wood stoves.
Whether American guns can be sold abroad. How smokeless tobacco can be marketed. Which nonprofits can stage get-out-the-vote drives. What constitutes a single serving of potato chips.
And, perhaps, just how salty those chips should be.
All this, and much more, will depend in large part on the behind-the-scenes churning of the federal bureaucracy — managed, or by many accounts micro-managed, by the White House.
The White House likes to perpetuate the misleading statistic that Obama has promulgated regulations at a pace comparable to Bush and Clinton. Politico found that this obscures what’s really happening:
In his first term, his administration enacted 246 regulations classified as “economically significant,” meaning they carry an economic impact of more than $100 million. That’s considerably more than either George W. Bush or Bill Clinton enacted in either of their terms. The Obama administration has added another 54 economically significant regulations so far in his second term. Many are connected to the health care law or Dodd-Frank.
The Heritage Foundation slices the data another way. It looks at how many regulations are “prescriptive,” meaning they impose mandates on the private sector. Its tally: 131 “prescriptive” rules issued during Obama’s first term — and 31 added last year. By comparison, Bush issued 52 prescriptive rules during his first term, said Diane Katz, a research fellow at the foundation.
This is where the action is. Behind the scenes. Where the founders intended. The founders of the Soviet Union, that is.