Tuesday’s mishmash

Hi guys,

1. It’s the beginning of a very hectic and very important three-days-of-China at the WH. Good day to announce this:

GE Plans to Announce Projects in China Yielding $2.1 Billion in Revenue and support about 5,000 jobs.

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2. President Obama is ordering a sweeping review of government regulations. He is laying his usual logical and smart vision in this WSJ Op-Ed. manufactured outrage in 3…2…1!

Toward a 21st-Century Regulatory System

For two centuries, America’s free market has not only been the source of dazzling ideas and path-breaking products, it has also been the greatest force for prosperity the world has ever known. That vibrant entrepreneurialism is the key to our continued global leadership and the success of our people.

But throughout our history, one of the reasons the free market has worked is that we have sought the proper balance. We have preserved freedom of commerce while applying those rules and regulations necessary to protect the public against threats to our health and safety and to safeguard people and businesses from abuse.

From child labor laws to the Clean Air Act to our most recent strictures against hidden fees and penalties by credit card companies, we have, from time to time, embraced common sense rules of the road that strengthen our country without unduly interfering with the pursuit of progress and the growth of our economy.

Sometimes, those rules have gotten out of balance, placing unreasonable burdens on business—burdens that have stifled innovation and have had a chilling effect on growth and jobs. At other times, we have failed to meet our basic responsibility to protect the public interest, leading to disastrous consequences. Such was the case in the run-up to the financial crisis from which we are still recovering. There, a lack of proper oversight and transparency nearly led to the collapse of the financial markets and a full-scale Depression.

Over the past two years, the goal of my administration has been to strike the right balance. And today, I am signing an executive order that makes clear that this is the operating principle of our government.

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Where necessary, we won’t shy away from addressing obvious gaps: new safety rules for infant formula; procedures to stop preventable infections in hospitals; efforts to target chronic violators of workplace safety laws. But we are also making it our mission to root out regulations that conflict, that are not worth the cost, or that are just plain dumb.

For instance, the FDA has long considered saccharin, the artificial sweetener, safe for people to consume. Yet for years, the EPA made companies treat saccharin like other dangerous chemicals. Well, if it goes in your coffee, it is not hazardous waste. The EPA wisely eliminated this rule last month.

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We’re also getting rid of absurd and unnecessary paperwork requirements that waste time and money. We’re looking at the system as a whole to make sure we avoid excessive, inconsistent and redundant regulation. And finally, today I am directing federal agencies to do more to account for—and reduce—the burdens regulations may place on small businesses. Small firms drive growth and create most new jobs in this country. We need to make sure nothing stands in their way.

One important example of this overall approach is the fuel-economy standards for cars and trucks. When I took office, the country faced years of litigation and confusion because of conflicting rules set by Congress, federal regulators and states.

The EPA and the Department of Transportation worked with auto makers, labor unions, states like California, and environmental advocates this past spring to turn a tangle of rules into one aggressive new standard. It was a victory for car companies that wanted regulatory certainty; for consumers who will pay less at the pump; for our security, as we save 1.8 billion barrels of oil; and for the environment as we reduce pollution. Another example: Tomorrow the FDA will lay out a new effort to improve the process for approving medical devices, to keep patients safer while getting innovative and life-saving products to market faster.

Despite a lot of heated rhetoric, our efforts over the past two years to modernize our regulations have led to smarter—and in some cases tougher—rules to protect our health, safety and environment. Yet according to current estimates of their economic impact, the benefits of these regulations exceed their costs by billions of dollars.

This is the lesson of our history: Our economy is not a zero-sum game. Regulations do have costs; often, as a country, we have to make tough decisions about whether those costs are necessary. But what is clear is that we can strike the right balance. We can make our economy stronger and more competitive, while meeting our fundamental responsibilities to one another.

The executive order itself is here.

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2. Oy vey.

ABC/Wash Post: President Obama Approval rating at 54% (+9 swing since mid-December)

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 3. Oy vey.

President Obama against GOP opponents: +13 on Romney, +12 on Huckabee, +26 on Palin.

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4. Oy vey.

The top US presidents: First poll of UK experts 

Barack Obama was not included in the survey, but interim assessments indicate that he would have been placed eighth overall if he had been included in the poll. George W Bush was in 31st place, putting him in the bottom 10.

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5. I received this mail from a member of our community, who wish to stay anonymous, and provided some really terrific links:

Here is an example of Industry and Environmentalists getting along.
http://www.bellinghamherald.com/2010/11/18/1728808/new-cherry-point-reserve-plan.html  (I love our new Lands Commissioner)  Plus further news on that BP oil refinery that creates jobs; as well as some gains (and a couple losses) from a 2010 business roundup http://www.bellinghamherald.com/2010/12/26/1784009/signs-of-better-days-whatcom-county.html  Note the piece of great news for sockeye salmon.
 
Here’s someone paying back their TARP funds (guess they got tired of the government overwatch) http://www.bellinghamherald.com/2011/01/13/1815475/whidbey-island-bank-pays-back.html  Wish they’d start lending money for construction, though.
 
Here’s an example of business and environmentalists sort of working together.  Notice the environmentalist’s hyperbolic comment about the Obama administration’s “extreme disregard for the health of the American people.” (cough) http://www.bellinghamherald.com/2011/01/12/1813324/epa-gives-break-to-biomass-over.html

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6. I don’t like the snarky headline, but it’s a good story about the president’s policies helping native Americans.

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7. Just a terrific read from The New York Review of Books, following that speech last week. This is a must read. (Thank you, Mary).

Obama’s Finest Hour

During the 2008 presidential campaign, I wrote a comparison of Barack Obama’s Philadelphia speech on race with Abraham Lincoln’s Cooper Union address during his own 1860 campaign. I noted that both men had to separate themselves from embarrassing associations—Lincoln from John Brown’s violent abolitionism, and Obama from Jeremiah Wright’s black nationalism. They had to do this without engaging in divisive attacks or counter-attacks. They did it by appeal to the finest traditions of the nation, with hope for the future of those traditions. Obama renounced black nationalism without giving up black pride, which he said was in the great American tradition of self-reliance:

It means taking full responsibility for our own lives—by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; the must always believe that the can write their own destiny.

In a situation where his critics trumpeted “family values,” he spelled out what those really are. I concluded by saying, of Lincoln and Obama: “Each looked for larger patterns under the surface bitternessses of their day. Each forged a moral position that rose above the occasion for their speaking.”

The New York Review wanted to publish a booklet printing the Lincoln and Obama speeches together, but the Obama campaign discouraged that idea, perhaps to avoid any suspicion that they were calling Obama a second Lincoln. Well, I am willing to risk such opposition now, when I say that his Tucson speech bears comparison with two Lincoln speeches even greater than the Cooper Union address.

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8. And another one, this time from the British Telegraph:

Barack Obama explains the Big Society beautifully

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9. We said it first! ;)

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