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  • Good Czar, Bad Czar: Cass Sunstein and the Future of OIRA

    It’s perhaps the most important job no one has ever heard of. Yesterday, Harvard professor Cass Sunstein was confirmed by the Senate as the administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, otherwise known as the nation’s “regulatory czar.” Nowadays, the mere mention of a czar tends to get eyes rolling in Washington, as President Obama has crowned more czars than did the Romanovs. Yet this czar-dom isn’t a newly minted Obama Administration post. The job goes back to President Reagan. The mission: to be the regulator’s regulator, with the power to block proposed new regulations unless their costs are justified by their benefits.

    During the Bush Administration, OIRA and its administrators — John Graham and Susan Dudley — were favorite targets of the left, which saw them as imposing unwanted scrutiny on regulatory schemes. While hardly as powerful as the pro-regulation camp painted it — regulatory burdens increased significantly during Bush’s tenure — OIRA provided a key instititional hurdle for those wanting to impose new regulations.

    But what role will OIRA play under Sunstein? Sunstein is certainly no deregulator, expressing disdain for those who argue for (as he puts it): “markets markets markets, markets markets markets.” And he’s written favorably on quite a few highly intrusive and even dangerous regulatory ideas (ranging from a Fairness Doctrine for the Internet and legal rights for animals).

    Yet, OIRA has little ability to push forward its own agenda items — its power is in its ability to stop proposals by line regulatory agencies. And Sunstein is unlikely to be a mere rubber stamp for the pet plans of other regulators. He has long been a leading academic proponent of cost-benefit scrutiny of proposed new rules, and hasn’t shied from the regulatory Shibboleth’s of the left, questioning the constitutionality of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration and the need for climate change rules.) For this reason, many on the pro-regulation left were appalled by his selection.

    In any case, we should know more about Sunstein’s role soon. Several months ago, the Obama Administration began a thorough review of OIRA, calling for public comment on the office’s authority, processes, and methods. Among the options: reducing the office’s authority to block new rules. This is Sunstein’s first test. Will he allow the system of regulatory review to be weakened, giving regulatory agencies a free hand? Or will he defend — or even expand — OIRA’s ability to challenge rules and force agencies to justify their cost?

    Its a decision worth paying attention to. And ironically, it’s one where defenders of free markets should be rooting for, rather than against, a czar.

    Posted in Economics [slideshow_deploy]

    16 Responses to Good Czar, Bad Czar: Cass Sunstein and the Future of OIRA

    1. Ruthe Knittle, Presc says:

      What are the names and duties of the Czars appointed by President Obama? What are their salaries and how large are their staffs? Thanks.

      Where do I go in your website to ask a question like this?

    2. Greg Zotta says:

      Obama and the Czars

      President Barack Hussein Obama said he wants to transform America. I ask, “Into what?”


      He has appointed a number of radical “Czars” as his advisors. “Green Jobs” czar, Van Jones stated he was “radicalized in jail,” and admits to being a “Communist”, and a “rowdy black nationalist.”

      The “science czar,” John Holdren is for sterilization and abortion for population control, and wrote, “Indeed, it has been concluded that compulsory population-control laws, even including laws requiring compulsory abortion, could be sustained under the existing constitution if the population crisis became sufficiently severe to endanger the society.”

      Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, the “health policy” czar blames the Hippocratic oath for the overuse of medical care, and that doctors need to serve two masters “the patient and society.” He stated, “Medical students should be trained to provide socially sustainable, cost-effective care.” One sign of progress he sees: “the progression in the end-of-life care mentality from do everything to a more palliative care shows that change in physician norms and practices is possible.” “Treating 65 year olds differently because of stereotypes or falsehoods would be ageist: treating them differently because they have more life-years is not.” Could this be construed as the “Death Panel?”

      Legal adviser Harold Koh stated, “Judges should interpret the Constitution according to other nations’ legal “norms.” Sharia law could apply to disputes in US courts. The United States constitutes an “axis of disobedience” along with North Korea and Saddam-era Iraq.”

      “Diversity” czar, Mark Lloyd on the First Amendment stated, “It should be clear by now that my focus here is not freedom of speech or the press…This freedom is all too often an exaggeration…At the very least, blind references to freedom of speech or the press serve as a distraction from the critical examination of other communications policies.” He apparently will decide what is acceptable over the airwaves, and fine the stations 100% of the operating budget if he deems the content not “diverse” enough. Sounds like the “Fairness Doctrine” repackaged, and it’s meant to stifle conservative speech. They believe in free speech as long as you’re saying what they believe and want to hear.

      Obama stated he was going to have the most transparent administration ever, and because these are just some of his “radical” advisers and some of their views I have the following questions for him:

      What are they being paid?

      How much influence do the czars have, and on who?

      How much power do they have?

      Who do they answer to?

      How were they selected?

      Who selected them?

      Why were they selected?

      President Obama now knows of their radical views, and thus will he keep them on as advisors? Probably, because these “Czars” are a reflection of whom Barack Hussein Obama really is.

      Greg Zotta

    3. howiem, Thailand says:

      Whoever wrote this piece of claptrap has to be from the Marxist side. Forget that the OIRA office is supposed to be about blocking regulation. Do some homework on Sunsteirm's history and proposals. The blog post casually mention his Internet Fairness proposal, but doesn't explain what it is. It is regulating the Internet so that the government will determine, through content filtering, just what every person is allowed to see. It is about regulating the Internet, not about leaving it free and open. Sunstein wants more and more regulation, not less, just like Obama, and he does work for Obama…for now. This is just more Obama newspeek. Just imagine if you had a baseball game in which the umpire could change the rules as he saw fit. Fairness would mean that no one can win. Every game would have to result in a tie, and every hitter would have to have a 1.000 batting average, and every pitcher an ERA of 0.00. Do you like a particular team? If so, that will be deemed not fair, and you will have to watch nothing or other teams, as well (at first) Do you prefer Fox news to CNN? Too bad. You will have to watch equal amounts of news from both. But in reality, filtering Internet content means that eventually the government will decide that you will watch what the governmentallows you to watch, and followed by limiting you to what the government deems that you must watch. Turning off the TV or the computer will not be an option. Such a system will destroy the barrier between the executive, judicial and legislative branches of government. For those who haven't figured this out, it mans that all the power will be invested in the executive branch. Don't be fooled by Sunstein's apparent rejection of some of his own ideas in the main blog post link. Marxists like Sunstein will lie about anything, any time, just like his boss, in order to get the power they crave, just as they are doing now. There is far more that Sunstein wants in the way of regulation. He wants a new Bill of Rights that will totally destroy choice and freedom http://www.google.co.th/search?q=Obama%27s+regula

      These new "rights" are a means of taking away choice and freedom. The government will determine where you work, what you work at and everything else about your life, because guaranteeing everyone the right to work can only be done by government forcing unneeded labor on companies, regardless of abilities to perform the jobs.

      Here is the list of "rights" he proposes. If you are unable to see the problems with these, and are unwilling to take the time to understand why these should never be rights, you will deserve the full impact should they ever come into law. And if you have more than the intelligence of a flea, you will not like what you get (unless you are one of the elite exempt).

      The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;

      The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

      The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

      The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

      The right of every family to a decent home;

      The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

      The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

      The right to a good education.

      So to whoever wrote this blog, I say, go post on the DailyKos instead. Cass Sunstein is one of the most dangerous people in America. Will Americans have to learn this the hard way? hey certainly will not learn anything from the main blog post.

    4. chris, providence says:

      Greg, there are lots of appointed jobs in the administration of any president. Like the article says, under Bush the same job existed (and two different people held the position), and is called the administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

      The word "czar" just is used as a shorthand in the government for someone who's in charge of something. The term has been around for a while. They're simply political appointees who are chosen by the President to oversee various agencies.

    5. V. Pulliam, Durango, says:

      I understand vote confirming vote for Cass Sunstein was 57 to 40. Where can I find how each Senator voted, esp. Republican Senators?

      Did Colorado's Senators vote to confirm a "regulatory Czar" who wants to outlaw hunting and believes there is no individual right to keep and bear arms under the 2nd Amendment?

    6. Jack Cockman says:

      President Obama said look at the people that I have surrounded my self with, and I have they are tax cheats those who approve of abortion and a lot of past law breakers. They are against the 1st and 2 amendments, and most of are anti American's.

    7. Chuck Kansas City, says:

      We already have a huge bloated overstaffed administration, where are some of the honest, profit producing productive jobs Obama promised? These need to be in the private sector, not more government beaurocrats and their many assistants. This country does not need more Czar's we need some cost controlled efficiency along with some accountability.

    8. Pingback: CritterBlog » Blog Archive » Who Is Cass Sunstein and Why Should You Care?

    9. Bill, Kansas City, M says:

      Czars, czars, and more czars. I am so sick and tired of government getting bigger and bigger, and we have to pay for it.

    10. Lloyd Scallan - New says:

      howiem expressed it perfectly. Cass Sunstine's ideas are Obama's. Thats why he is in the White House. Obama can "throw him under the bus" when the time comes and remain "above the fray" by denying or, as with Van Jones, just say nothing.

      Sunstine is bad enough, but we all had better keep a close eye on Mark Lloyd of the FCC. This guy wants to take away all forms of free speech on public airways.

    11. Julie Peters, Louisi says:

      "This is Sunstein’s first test. Will he allow the system of regulatory review to be weakened, giving regulatory agencies a free hand? Or will he defend — or even expand — OIRA’s ability to challenge rules and force agencies to justify their cost?"…and would Cyndie Sheehan "block proposals" to bring troops home because the cost cannot be justified? Do we really have to ASK?

    12. Jean High, Gaffney, says:

      I am amazed that in this great country, noone is doing anything about the loss of freedoms, the economy, the loss of protection, etc. It appears that what is happening has left the strong as weaklings. In America's situation, knowledge does not produce leaders for the people. When will it be too late?

    13. Daniel says:

      As demonstrated by his first utterance since in office, about amending the Constitution by 2020 to contain the "2nd Bill of Rights", Cass certainly fits within the "Bad Czar" side of the ledger on my book (that would be, the Book of Freedom and Personal Responsibility). Unfortunately, as is the case with his boss, the foxes are already in the hen house and are very hungry!

      We MUST not let down our guard, and monitor this public official very closely – and strenuously object to our President and Congressmen on anything we consider extreme (which means we'll probably be very busy…) Please keep contacting our Elected Officials at

      Their survival instinct is ultimately stronger than their ideology.

    14. Pingback: Democrats stifle Republican health care plans - Page 7 - Truckingboards Truck Drivers Forum

    15. Jerry from Chicago says:

      This guy Sunstein maintains that animals should have the right to sue humans for whatever grievance that it might have and court appointed lawyers should be provided to them to assist in those rights.

      This is also the guy who is against turning on the irrigation water to the San Joaquin Valley produce farmers in California, because doing so would adversely affect a two-inch fish called the "Delta Smelt", possibly to its extinction. Apparently, Mr. Sunstein would rather see the San Joaquin farmers become extinct. The once fertile valley that supplied 30% of the country's produce is now a dust bowl. Hannity covered this on his Sept 17th evening show. Tens of thousands of people are now unemployed due to the irrigation shut-off, family farms are being lost. The water is not only available, it's being diverted into the Pacific ocean.

      Mr. Obama knows this, the Secretary of the Interior knows this and Mr. Sunstein knows this. Governor Schwartzenegger has appealed to the President and the Secretary of the Interior. Petitons signed by 52 Mayors in towns of the San Joaquin Valley have signed petitions begging the administration to turn on the water. Again, the silence from Mr. Obama and his administration is deafening.

    16. Lynn B. DeSpain says:

      I may be wrong, I am at times, but I do believe that it was Nixon who coined the phrase Czar, in reference to Drug regulation.

      Regardless, I have always dislike the term czar, or tzar, because it denotes imperialism and dictatorship and extreme atrocities to the Land's people. I have also believed, then and now, as did his medical advisority team, that Marijuanna was basically harmless and should only be controlled and regulated through government taxes and laws. Inspite of the advice, this Nation has spent untold Trillions(?) on the search and prosecution, and incarseration of Americans. I'm neutral, I do not use, but I do understand the money!

      Now we have another Nixon, named Obama, who like himself would love nothing better than to turn this Nation of Freedom into an Autocracy, with Obama as supreme power!

      These so called czars of his are only answerable to him and to him alone! Not to Congress, because Congress does not pay them, nor do they have a job discription for them. As a matter of fact, Congress doesn't even know what it is that these czars do exactly!

      Who pays these Czars? Obama must, because the money does not come form elsewhere! How does Obama pay them? It sure isn't out of his paycheck, or his expense account! The Mob kind of works that way doesn't it?

      Now what in the World would the First Lady need with 21 personal aides? What? She cannot possible be that busy, I mean even at fifteen minutes each we're talking five hours just to tell them what to do on a daily basis! And this costs $1,200,000 each a year! That's a lot of money for a Lady that ain't even elected! Congress pays for that, which means that we do directly! Indirectly we pay for the Czars, but directly for the Aides.

      I'm not a racist, but I will tell you this, there are those out there that the Obamas and Acorn are pushing to the limit! Thsoe people were probably close anyway, but the President had such a great opportunity to bring us all together, and now it seems as if we are further apart that ever. I do pray that this damage can be undone.


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