U.S. Chamber of Commerce Ramps up Attacks on Public Protections with Planned Roadshow

Coalition for Sensible Safeguards Says Anti-Regulatory Campaign Could Endanger Middle Class, Public Health, Worker Safety

June 8, 2011

Contact: Angela Bradbery (202) 588-7741 or abradbery@citizen.org
Brian Gumm (202) 683-4812 or bgumm@ombwatch.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On June 2, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue sent a memo to supporters outlining a multi-front campaign on regulatory reform, including a national anti-regulatory “roadshow” that will feature former Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) and former Bush White House chief of staff Andrew Card. The Coalition for Sensible Safeguards disputes many of the assertions that underlie this campaign against public protections.

Donohue’s memo is a blueprint for even greater special interest influence on federal regulations and a prescription for significant harm to families across the country. Rather than create a constructive dialogue about regulatory protections, the U.S. Chamber’s anti-regulatory efforts will, if successful, endanger safeguards the American middle class expects its government to provide, including those related to public health, financial protections and worker safety.

The U.S. Chamber says it has “recognized the need for sensible regulations,” but its actions defy such reasonable-sounding platitudes. “For months, the U.S. Chamber has been ramping up its rhetoric, targeting rules related to health care reform, financial reform and more,” said Gary D. Bass, executive director of OMB Watch, a coalition co-chair. “Stopping or rolling back key protections designed to safeguard the middle class and the public health of all Americans is not productive; rather, it could do great harm to a large portion of the public.”

The U.S. Chamber has been active in pressuring the Obama administration to halt or weaken a variety of standards, including U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules on ozone, coal ash and boiler emissions that are designed to protect public health, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rules on workplace noise exposure, as well as consumer protections in the financial area that were created after the Wall Street-driven economic collapse.

Further, the U.S. Chamber and its legislative branch allies want to give Congress the unprecedented power to approve all major rules before they can be implemented, which would further politicize a rulemaking process that should be based on facts, science and expert analysis.

“The U.S. Chamber believes it is its duty to sacrifice the health of the American people to further the interests of the businesses that fund its campaigns. Its talking points that exaggerate costs and completely ignore benefits don’t deserve serious consideration,” said Scott Slesinger, Legislative Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, a coalition member.

One of the U.S. Chamber’s claims that its upcoming roadshow is likely to repeat is that regulatory costs are immense and threaten to overwhelm business and job growth in the United States. However, recent empirical evidence contradicts that claim. In April, the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) released a paper finding that economy-wide and industry studies suggest that public protections generally do not pose a significant threat to job creation and can have modestly positive effects on employment trends. EPI also noted that deregulation can have severe economic consequences.

More recently, EPI released an analysis demonstrating that the overall costs of EPA rules finalized so far during the Obama administration would be modest when the rules are fully implemented, especially compared to their public health benefits. Those costs would amount to less than 0.1 percent of the economy, a figure that changes little when proposed rules are also considered. EPI is a member of the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards.

Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen and coalition co-chair, said, “The misleading spin and half-truths that are going to come out of this roadshow won’t be about reducing burdens to jumpstart job creation. Rather, they’ll be about protecting powerful corporate interests that already wield a disproportionate amount of influence in Washington, D.C., at the expense of the health, safety, and pocketbooks of working Americans.”

Additional resources:

EPI paper: “Regulation, Employment, and the Economy: Fears of job loss are overblown” http://www.epi.org/publications/entry/regulation_employment_and_the_economy_fears_of_job_loss_are_overblown

EPI paper: “Tallying up the impact of new EPA rules” http://www.epi.org/publications/entry/tallying_up_the_impact_of_new_epa_rules

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The Coalition for Sensible Safeguards is a coalition of consumer, labor, scientific, faith, research, public health, public interest and environmental groups, joined in the belief that our country’s system of regulatory safeguards provides a stable framework that secures our quality of life and paves the way for a sound economy that benefits us all.