Poll: Vast majority believe businesses and consumers are over-regulated

The president was three-quarters of the way through his jobs speech last week before he explicitly mentioned the word “regulations” — and, when he finally did, it was to disparage concerns about over-regulation, to suggest that those who advocate regulatory rollback don’t care about safety or honesty in business.

But the American people perceive the regulatory environment somewhat differently than does the president. Three quarters — 74 percent — of voters throughout the country believe that businesses and consumers are over-regulated, according to a Public Notice poll released today. And they strongly suspect that much of that over-regulation has been implemented recently: 67 percent believe that regulations have increased over the past few years.

In fact, they’re right. The rate at which regulatory burdens are growing has accelerated under the Obama administration, according to a Heritage Foundation backgrounder. During its first 26 months, the Obama administration imposed 75 new major regulations with reported costs to the private sector exceeding $40 billion. During the same period, six major rulemaking proceedings reduced regulatory burdens by an estimated $1.5 billion — for a net increase of more than $38 billion.

“No other President has burdened businesses and individuals with a higher number and larger cost of regulations in a comparable time period,” Heritage’s James Gattuso and Diane Katz write. “President Bush was in his third year before new costs hit $4 billion. President Obama achieved the same in 12 months.”

Since the time of that report, the president has paid a bit more lip service to the idea of eliminating burdensome regulations, complying with Boehner’s call for a review. (The president takes full credit for this in his jobs speech, but, to my recollection, Boehner had to poke and prod Obama to provide the list of costly regulations.) The president also sensibly rejected expensive and likely-to-be-ineffective air quality standards. But it’s clear from the tenor of his speech that regulatory reform will be kept at a minimum.

Unfortunately, while voters understand regulations have increased recently, they don’t understand that the executive branch is exclusively to blame. A majority say that Congress creates regulations, when, in fact, unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats do. No wonder the American people think that, though. After all, legislating is the responsibility of the legislative branch — and not the province of the executive branch.

But the American people’s misconception about who writes regulations means constituents won’t be calling Congressional offices anytime soon to demand Congressional oversight of regulation. Still, that doesn’t mean the American people don’t want Congress to approve regulations before they go into effect. In fact, 65 percent favor a requirement that regulations be approved by Congress and the President before they are enforced.

I’ve written before about the REINS Act, which would introduce just such a requirement. It’s a piece of legislation I hope Republicans will strongly continue to push. They should rest easy knowing they have the firm support of the American people, who not only want the executive branch out of the legislature, but also connect the dots between an environment of over-regulation and their own lives. A final few key findings from the Public Notice poll:

A majority (56%) agrees that “more government intervention and regulation to the process of overseeing business means you have less accountability because everyone assumes someone else is in charge”, while only 38% agree more that additional regulation leads to more accountability because of the increased number involved in oversight.

One of the highest points of agreement in the survey is the fact that 73% concur that “every time the federal government mandates a new regulation on America’s large and small business, the prices of American made good and services like gasoline and food go up.”  Only 22% supported the view that “while many federal regulations might be just another burden to operations of America’s large and small businesses, customers do not see major cost increases for American made goods and services like gasoline and food.” …

Voters also see a personal connection to new regulations, with majorities saying they are negatively impacted from regulations ranging from those that try to control the banking and financial industry (59%) to those that tell American businesses which workers they can hire (57%) to regulations that dictate what light bulbs Americans must purchase (60%).  A majority of both conservatives (61%) and liberals (54%) say they are negatively impacted by regulations that tell American businesses which workers to hire.

The president said he refuses to believe the jobs crisis comes down to a choice between “jobs” and “safety” — and the American people don’t think it comes down to that choice, either. Solid majorities say they are positively impacted by rules that require certain safety levels for drinking water (72 percent) or require controls to ensure better safety at schools and in the workplace (66 percent). So when the American people refer to over-regulation and when they say regulations affect them negatively, they’re not referring to safety regulations. Obama had better heed that we’d like fewer of them and we’re not fooled by his false dichotomy.