- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The U.S. business community is facing “an epidemic” of regulatory overreach from the Obama administration that is creating uncertainty for corporate leaders and holding back the economic recovery, a top business leader warned Tuesday.

“If you just put the regulatory umbrella up, unfortunately, that regulatory umbrella is blotting out the sun,” Business Roundtable President John Engler said in an interview with editors and reporters at The Washington Times. “It’s so big.”

The former Michigan governor, a Republican, pointed to many federal agencies that create uncertainty and stunt economic growth, including the National Labor Relations Department, Environmental Protection Agency, Labor Department, Interior Department and State Department.

“It literally is epidemic across the government,” he said.

Mr. Engler singled out the EPA. He said one of the Business Roundtable’s biggest successes of the year was defeating an EPA proposal to lower ozone standards from the current 75 parts per billion. Studies showed it could have cost U.S. businesses anywhere from $19 billion to $90 billion per year to comply with. That, in turn, would have destroyed 7.3 million jobs by 2020.

“Many of their regulations are among the most expensive and apply over the longest period of time,” he said.

The NLRB has also been heavily criticized this year for prosecuting Boeing Co., the world’s largest aerospace manufacturer, in a labor dispute that has been resolved.

The agency accused Boeing of retaliating against its workers in Puget Sound, Wash., for past strikes by building a second plant in South Carolina. Boeing denied the charges, saying it was a smart business decision to move where labor costs are cheaper.

Business leaders said the case created uncertainty for companies that still fear the NLRB could try to relocate them in the future.

To make matters worse, companies are upset that the NLRB also has proposed new rules that would speed up the formation of unions and allow for separate unions within a single business.

“The policymakers need to understand the importance of that uncertainty as it relates to businesses making decisions,” Mr. Engler said.

In the current economy, many companies have enough money to hire, but they are holding out because they fear new regulations could once again bring about bad times.

“You need regulatory policy to give you some certainty and predictability,” he added. “So you don’t make that investment only to find out the rules have changed, the game is different, and the investment decision you made is no longer competitive.”

Mr. Engler said deadlocks in Congress between Democrats and Republicans have also caused unhealthy delays for the economy.

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