Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

January 27, 2009


Center for Progressive Reform - Barack Obama [has] selected Harvard Law Professor Cass Sunstein to direct the White House Office of Management and Budget's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. The job is perhaps better known by its informal title: "regulatory czar," so named because the holder is charged with signing off on all major proposed regulations. In the recent past, the OIRA has been a place where regulations to protect health, safety and the environment go to die, or at the very least be weakened.

In a report, a group of CPR member scholars expressed serious concern about Professor Sunstein's support for the very methods used to weaken and defeat badly needed regulations. Among the concerns:

- Sunstein is a stout supporter of cost-benefit analysis as a primary tool for assessing regulations, despite its imprecision and the ease with which it is manipulated to achieve preferred policy outcomes;

- He supports such cost-benefit approaches as the widely condemned "senior discount" method for undervaluing the lives of seniors in cost-benefit analyses, an approach even the Bush Administration was forced to disown;

- He rejects the "precautionary principle" as a basis for regulating, thus ensuring that dangerous pollutants and products will be given the "benefit of the doubt," rather than well-grounded concerns about health and safety;

- He supports the centralization of authority over regulatory decisions in the White House - OIRA in particular, even though Congress delegated the exercise of expert judgment to the regulatory agencies, not to OIRA's staff economists in the White House.

- He has written that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration might be unconstitutional.

CPR President Rena Steinzor, one of seven co-authors of the report, warned that "Unless he turns over a new leaf, or unless President Obama keeps a careful eye on OIRA, we fear that Cass Sunstein's reliance on cost-benefit analysis will create a regulatory fiefdom in the White House that will deal with needed regulations in very much the same way that the Bush Administration did."

Progressive Review - Obama constitutional advisor Sunstein is also opposed prosecuting Bush officials for crimes and told the NY Times, "I would be stunned to find an anti-business [Supreme Court] appointee from either [Clinton or Obama]. There's not a strong interest on the part of Obama or Clinton in demonizing business, and you wouldn't expect to see that in their Supreme Court nominees."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Big Business is where wealth goes to become super-concentrated into the treasure chests of the few. But big business isn't the problem - the concentration of wealthpower into human hands it enables is the problem. Businesses can safely be big if the great fortunes are not allowed to be captured and kept forever by a few people at the top.

The automatic concentration of wealth and power into few hands can be countered for by sane restriction of private inheritance. The heirs have done nothing to create the wealth, so deceased estates above the first couple million should be inherited by the working public who were underpaid all along.

And I don't mean give the money to the government: I mean give their rightful wages back to the rightful earners.

January 27, 2009 11:54 AM  

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