| President Obama wrote the magic words for many businesses in a rare Wall Street Journal op-ed today - ordering "a government-wide review of the rules already on the books to remove outdated regulations that stifle job creation and make our economy less competitive." The president also issued a companion executive order calling on government agencies to ensure that any regulations on the books "protect our safety, health and environment while promoting economic growth."
As the president noted, businesses have been subjected to new regulations piled onto old ones without any comprehensive look at what it means for the economy. The problems isn't always the new regulations - some of which are worthwhile. However, it's the government's inability to remove the old and outdated rules that don't have much of a place (or benefit) in a 21st century economy. Businesses still have to comply with the arcane resulting in higher costs and uncessary legal headaches. Those are real hurdles to new investment and job creation.
The $64,000 question is how much this new intiaitive will resemble the Clinton/Gore effort to "reinvent government" launched nearly two decades ago. In 1998, the Brookings Institute released a five-year report card on the program. The Clinton Administration received overall strong grades for the effort including an A+ for how long it remained a top priorty at the White House. However, the grades began to drop to the Bs and Cs when looking at how well those directives were implemented at the agency and Congressional levels.
Like the Clinton effort, President Obama's success is dependent on top-down leadership beginning in the Oval Office. Making the mission and the measurable objectives clear to agency heads is critical for those decisions that don't require Congressional approval. The challenges at the other end of Constitution Avenue are even more daunting. Can the Republican House embrace this opportunity for a reform partnership or does the 2012 election prove too much of a siren's call for Speaker Boehner to resist? Let's hope its the former.
The president begins the outreach to business this week by stepping into the lion's den with a U.S. Chamber of Commerce speaking engagement. That type of outreach is key, but it's his actions as a leader that will determine this intiative's success or failure. The upside is that his new chief of staff, Bill Daley, knows all about business's gripes and the Clinton Administration's reinventing government effort. Daley was Secretary of Commerce from 1997-2001.
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