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Indiana University

Obama Office Alters More Federal Rules Than Bush

November 28, 2011
Bloomington, Indiana --

Striking A Balance

Obama always emphasizes the need to strike a balance, saying rules that don't make sense should die, while others are important.

"I reject the argument that says for the economy to grow we have to roll back protections that ban hidden fees by credit card companies or rules that keep our kids from being exposed to mercury. Or laws that prevent the health care industry from short-changing patients," he said in a September speech to Congress.

People who have spent their careers in this field are not surprised to learn that the Obama White House is changing more draft rules than the Bush White House did.

John Graham ran the regulatory oversight office under George W. Bush. In his experience, Republican presidents tend to put people who don't like new rules in charge of agencies — so those agencies don't send a lot of regulations to a Republican-led White House for review.

In fact, "we had to devise an entirely new device called the prompt letter," Graham recalls. "It says, 'You really ought to strengthen the food label by putting the trans-fat content of foods on the label.' But I think what you'll find in the Obama administration is that there are no shortages of ideas of new regulations to be adopted coming out of the agencies."

While OIRA staffers try to evaluate those ideas based on the merits of each proposal, many people who've worked there in the past say sometimes raw politics comes into play.

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