Ed hit on this in his post about Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s speech in Wyoming earlier today, but the contents of Speaker John Boehner’s letter to President Obama are worth perusing in depth, if you haven’t yet. The White House would have us believe it understands the need to roll back regulations — that it has, in fact, already begun to eliminate hundreds of unnecessary rules. The president purports to understand the ill effects of uncertainty in the regulatory environment. But such conservative rhetoric appears to be a cover-up for an ongoing progressive increase in regulations, an attempt to placate voters who suspect the administration has made it harder rather than easier on small-business owners to grow their business and hire more employees. Boehner’s letter states:

Last year, on August 16, 2010, I wrote to you about my concern that the Administration’s published regulatory agenda included a total of 191 planned new regulations, each of which had an estimated annual cost of $100 million or more, with some involving billions of dollars annually. In my letter, I noted that at public forums, private sector job creators were citing this regulatory agenda as one of the primary impediments to job creation, especially for small businesses. I asked that your Administration identify for Congress all of your planned new rules that would have an estimated economic impact of more than $1 billion. Unfortunately, that requested information was not provided to Congress nor to the American people.

This year the Administration’s current regulatory agenda identified 219 planned new regulations that have estimated annual costs in excess of $100 million each. That’s almost a 15 percent increase over last year, and appears to contradict public suggestions by the Administration this week that the regulatory burden on American job creators is scaled back.

One of those planned new regulations — an EPA rule — will cost our economy as much as $90 billion a year, according to the letter. And keep in mind: That 219 figure just refers to the number of new rules that will have an economic impact of $100 million or more. The administration actually has 4,257 new regulatory actions in the works.

Boehner has asked for the information about the cost of the regulations by the time Congress resumes — that is, by Sept. 6, about the time the president plans to deliver his major jobs speech. At that time, the House will take up consideration of The REINS Act, a piece of legislation that strongly deserves support and that was included in Republicans’ Pledge to America. In a nutshell, REINS ensures the executive branch cannot implement any major regulations — defined as those with an economic impact of $100 million or more — without Congressional approval. That would help to prevent any administration from bypassing Congress to enact a political agenda through regulation, as we have seen this president attempt to do time and again.

(As an aside, it’s easy to blame the executive for grabs at legislative power, but, until Congress commits itself to legislating clearly and concisely and to assuming responsibility for the regulations its laws inspire, the administrative state will naturally continue to grow. The REINS Act is a good first step to that assumption of responsibility. But even more can be done.)

Of course, if Congress passes REINS (unlikely, given the Senate, of course), the president will have to provide the information Boehner has requested. But that the president would respond to Boehner in writing without the legal impetus of REINS passage seems like too much to hope for from a president who seems to have a great aversion to putting anything on paper. The least the president could do is include in his September jobs speech an honest discussion of regulations and why the Administration sees the need to add 219 expensive new rules to the books.

I’m not holding my breath for that, either, though. Instead, I’m keeping lists of what the president likely will and won’t say in September and, so far, they look a little something like this.

Mentions of:

  • A payroll tax cut extension and other revenue raisers
  • A boost to unemployment insurance
  • An infrastructure bank
  • The need for an increase in engineering students
  • The need to put construction workers to work on federal projects
  • Maybe the need for more stimulus?

No mention of:

  • His responsibility for the astronomical growth of government over the past two years
  • Expansion of regulations and general regulatory unpredictability
What am I missing? I know more could be added …
Update: President’s speech to also include strong support for public-private partnerships.