Title: President's Remarks - Regulatory Reform Event

Author: Office of the Press Secretary

Date: February 21, 1995


Office of the Press Secretary


For Immediate Release

February 21, 1995


Room 450

Old Executive Office Building

12:40 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. I want to

begin by thanking the Vice President for his

leadership on this issue. When we formed our

partnership back in 1992, and we talked about all

the things we wanted to do, and we had a series of

long, fascinating conversations in which he talked

to me about science and technology and the

environment, and I talked to him about education and

economic development and reinventing government --

and I told him that when I was a governor, every

couple of years we'd eliminate an agency just to see

if anybody noticed. (Laughter.) And normally, they

didn't. (Laughter.) And they never did complain

when they did notice.

And I asked him if he would -- then after we

actually won and came here, I asked him if he would

get involved with this and really try to make it

work for the American people, because I was

convinced that there was so much justifiable anxiety

out there among our people about the way government

operates, that unless we could change that we'd

never be able to maintain the faith of the taxpayers

and the integrity of the federal government.

I also asked him to do it because he was the

only person I could trust to read all 150,000 in the

Code of Federal Regulations -- (laughter.) At this

very moment Tipper is being treated for insomnia at

the Georgetown Hospital. (Laughter.) But he's just

about through. (Laughter.)

I also want to thank all of you who are here

who represent really the future of the federal

government and the future of its ability to maintain

the confidence of the American people that we're

protecting and promoting their interest and doing it

in a way that reinforces instead of defies common


I believe very strongly in the cause of

regulatory reform. And as the Vice President said,

we've been working at it for about two years now. I

also believe that we have to hold fast to certain

standards. I believe we can bring back common sense

and reduce hassle without stripping away safeguards

for our children, our workers, our families.

There are proposals pending in the Congress

today which go beyond reform to role back, arguably

even to wrecking. And I oppose them, but I believe

we have the burden of reform. And that means we

have to change in fundamental ways the culture of

regulation that has permeated this government

throughout administrations from administration to

administration, from Republicans to Democrats

occupying the White House.

The federal government to many people is not

the President of the United States, it's the person

who shows up on the doorstep to check out the bank

records, or the safety in the factory, or the

integrity of the workplace, or how the nursing home

is being run. I believe that we have a serious

obligation in this administration to work with the

Congress to reduce the burden of regulation and to

increase the protection to the public. And we have

an obligation on our own to do what we can to change

the destructive elements of the culture of

regulation that has built up over time and energize

the legitimate and decent things that we should be

doing here in Washington and, more importantly, that

should be being done all across the country.

I thank those who have come here today as

examples of the progress which has been made. We do

want to get rid of yesterday's government so we can

meet the demands of this new time. We do want

results, not rules. We want leaner government, not

meaner government. At a time when I have said our

obligation should be to create more opportunity and

also to provide more responsibility, our

responsibility here is to expand opportunity,

empower people to make the most of their own lives,

enhance security, and to do it all while we are

shrinking the federal bureaucracy; to give the

people a government as effective as our finest

private companies, to give our taxpayers their

money's worth.

Now, everybody has talked about this for years

now, but, in fact, we have taken steps in the right

direction. Already, we have reduced federal

spending by over a quarter of a trillion dollars,

reduced the size of the federal payroll by over

100,000. We are on our way to a reduction in excess

of 250,000 in the federal work force, which will

give us by the end of this decade the smallest

federal government since the Kennedy administration.

Vice President Gore's leadership in the

reinventing government initiatives have already

saved taxpayers $63 billion. Some of the more

visible changes have been well-noted: the reduction

of office in the Agriculture Department by more than

1,200, throwing away the government's 10,000-page

personnel manual. I haven't heard a single soul

complain about it. (Laughter.) Nobody has said, you

know, I never thought about the personnel manual,

but I just can't bear to live without it now.

(Laughter.) I haven't heard it a single place.

We've worked hard to solve problems that had

been long ignored -- reforming the pension benefit

guarantee system to secure the pensions of 8.5

million working Americans whose pensions and

retirement were at risk; reforming government

procurement so that the days of the $500 hammer and

the $10 glass ashtray are over; turning FEMA from a

disaster into a disaster relief agency; breaking

gridlock on bills that hung around in Congress for

years -- six or seven years -- like the family

leave law, the motor voter law, the Brady Bill and

the crime bill.

But maybe the most stubborn problem we face is

this problem of regulation. How do we do what we're

supposed to do here? How do we help to reinforce

the social contract and do our part to work with the

private sector to protect the legitimate interests

of the American people without literally taking

leave of our senses and doing things that drive

people up the wall, but don't make them safer.

We all want the benefits of regulation. We all

want clean air and clean water and safe food and

toys that our children can play with. But let's

face it, we all know the regulatory system needs

repair. Too often the rule writers here in

Washington have such detailed lists of dos and

don'ts that the dos and don'ts undermine the very

objectives they seek to achieve, when clear goals

and operation for cooperation would work better.

Too often, especially small businesses, face a

profusion of overlapping and sometimes conflicting

rules. We've tried to set up an effective procedure

here for resolving those conflicts, but it drives

people crazy. I had somebody just yesterday mention

being subject to two directly conflicting rules from

two federal agencies.

We have to move beyond the point where

Washington is, to use the Vice President's phrase,

the sort of national nanny that can always tell

businesses, consumers and workers not only what to

do, but exactly how to do it when, and with a

100-page guideline. And as has already been said,

we have begun to take the first steps in doing this.

You've heard about what the Comptroller of the

Currency has done. I can tell you one thing: When I

was out in New Hampshire in 1992, I heard more grief

about the regulation of the private sector by the

Comptroller of the Currency than any other single

thing. And now every time I go to New England, they

say, we're making money, we're making loans, and we

can function, because we finally got somebody down

there in Washington who understands how to have

responsible and safe banking regulations, and still

promote economic growth. I hear it every time I go

up there, and I thank you, sir, for what you've done

on that. (Applause.)

We've got industry and environmentalists alike

supporting Carol Browner, the EPA's Common Sense

Initiative and our proposed overhauls of the

Superfund and the safe drinking water laws which I

pray will pass in this section of Congress, and I

believe they will, would increase both flexibility

and improve results for consumers.

We've slashed the small business loan form from

an inch thick to a single page. We haven't had to

wait for legislation to streamline all regulations.

We've asked regulators and instructed them to use

market mechanisms whenever possible, and to open up

the regulatory process to more public scrutiny and


HHS has cut its block grant application form in

half for maternal and child health programs. EPA is

exploring using enforceable contracts instead of

regulation to eliminate potential risk. The FAA is

reviewing all of its rules to identify those that

are out of sync with state-of-the-art technology

practices. And there's nothing more maddening to a

businessman than being told one thing on Monday by

one governmental agency and another thing on Tuesday

by another.

Our Labor Department did something unusual

about that as it relates to regulations that affect

both labor and the environment. They talked to EPA

before issuing their asbestos rules -- a stunning

departure from past practices. (Laughter.) So that

at least there, there are now no contradictory


We're also trying to bring common sense in

other ways -- targeting high-risk areas, focusing,

for example, on lead in day care centers than

aircraft hangars. We're making school lunches more

nutritious, but reducing the forms the local schools

have to fill out to qualify for the program.

Today we're attempting to work with members of

both parties in Congress to further reform

regulation. Soon the Congress will pass legislation

so that Washington won't order states to solve

problems without giving them the resources to do it.

We're working together to pass legislation that

ensures that regulation is especially sensitive to

the needs of small businesses and to reduce

paperwork. But we must clearly do more. We must

ask ourselves some questions that are very, very

important. And I want to emphasize those here --

would you take the card down? This is why I asked

all of you here -- not just to be between me and the

press corps. (Laughter.)

Today, this is what we are now going to do. I

am instructing all regulators to go over every

single regulation and cut those regulations which

are obsolete; to work to reward results, not red

tape; to get out of Washington and go out into the

country to create grass-roots partnerships with the

people who are subject to these regulations and to

negotiate rather than dictate wherever possible.

We should ask ourselves -- let me go through

each one -- on the regulations, we should ask

ourselves: Do we really need this regulation?

Could private businesses do this just as well with

some accountability to us? Could state or local

government do the job better, making federal

regulation not necessary?

I want to really work through these things, and

I want you, all of you, to review all these

regulations and make a report to me by June

1st, along with any legislative recommendations you

need to implement the changes that would be

necessary to reduce the regulatory burden on

the American people. Second, I want every one of

you to change the way we measure the performance of

your agencies and the front-line regulators.

I love the comment the Vice President had about

people in customs being evaluated about how many

boxes they detain.

I believe safety inspections should be judged,

for example, by how many companies on their watch

comply, not by how many citations our regulators

write. We ought to be interested in results, not


Third, I want you to convene immediately groups

consisting of the front-line regulators and the

people affected by their regulations -- not lawyers

talking to lawyers in Washington, or even the rest

of us talking to each other in Washington, but a

conversation that actually takes place around the

country, at our clean-up sites, our factories and

our ports. Where this has been done, as we saw

here, we have seen stunning results.

Most people in business in this country know

that there is a reason for these regulations, for

these areas of regulations. And most people

would be more than happy to work to find a way that

would reduce hassle and still achieve the public

interest we seek to achieve.

Fourth, I want to move from a process where

lawyers write volumes to one where people create

partnerships based on common objectives and

common sense. I want each regulatory agency head to

submit to the White House a list of pending

procedures that can be converted into consensual


Now, I want to say this again; this is very

important. By June the 1st, I want to know where

obsolete regulations we can cut and which ones you

can't cut without help from Congress. We want a

system that will reward results, not red tape. We

want to get out of Washington and talk to people who

are doing the regulating and who are being regulated

on the front line. That is the only way we will

ever change the culture that bothers people. We

could stay here from now to kingdom come in this

room and we would never get that done. And,

finally, we need to look for the areas in which we

can honestly negotiate to produce the desired

results rather than dictate.

Finally, the Vice President has been conducting

a serious review of regulation in the areas of

greatest concern. In the coming months, he will

present to me a series of recommendations for

regulatory reform on the environment, on health, on

food, on financial institutions, on worker safety.

And when appropriate and necessary, I will present

them to the Congress.

This is what we are going to do. And it is

high time. But let me also emphasize what we are

not going to do. We have to recognize that, done

right, regulation gives our children safer toys and

food; protects our workers from injury; protects

families from pollution; and that when we fail, it

can have disastrous consequences.

The American economy is the envy of the world,

in part because of the public health protections put

in place over the last 30 years. Toxic emissions by

factories have dropped by more than 50 percent, and

lead levels in children's blood have dropped by 70

percent in three decades. Lake Erie, once declared

dead, is now teeming with fish; 112,000 people

survived car crashes because of auto safety rules;

workplace deaths are down by 50 percent since OSHA

was created. Our food is safer and we know its true

nutritional content because the government stood up

for public interests.

These protections are still needed. There's

not too little consumer fraud; toys are not too

safe; the environment is still not able to protect

itself. Some would use the need for reform as a

pretext to guy vital consumer, worker, environmental

protections; even things that protect business

itself. They don't want reform; they really want

rigor mortis.

Some in Congress are pushing a collection of

proposals that, taken together, would bring federal

protection of public health and safety to a halt.

Later this week the House will vote on an

across-the-board freeze on all federal regulations.

It sounds good. But this stops in its tracks

federal action that protects the environment,

protects consumers, and protects workers. For

example, it would stop the government from

allocating rights to commercial fishermen. One -- a

person who's worked with those folks in Louisiana is

here today. It would stop the government from

authorizing burials at Arlington Cemetery. It would

stop good regulations, bad regulations, in-between

regulations, all regulations. No judgment -- sounds

good, but no judgment. It would even cancel the

duck hunting season. (Laughter.) That gives me some

hope that it will not prevail. (Laughter.)

It would stop new protection from deadly

bacteria in our drinking water; stop safer meat and

poultry; stop safer cars; stop final implementation

of the law that lets parents take a leave to care

for a sick child. It would undermine what we're

trying to do to promote safety in commuter airlines.

If a moratorium takes effect, all these benefits

will be on hold for the foreseeable future.

Therefore, to me, a moratorium is not acceptable.

I agree with the Republicans in Congress on

many things. We do need to change this system. We

have been working for two years to change it, and

believe you me, I know we've got a long way to go.

But there is a right way to do it and a wrong way to

do it. We can agree on many things, but I am

convinced that a moratorium would hurt the broad

interests of the American people and would benefit

only certain narrow interests who, in the moment,

think they would be undermined by having this or

that particular regulation pass.

The best thing to do is to change the culture

of regulation; to do the four things that I have

outlined; not to put these things on hold, but to

put these things in high gear. That is the right

way to do this. I still believe that, working

together with Congress, we can achieve real and

balanced regulatory reform. But we shouldn't go too

far. For example, we want all agencies to carefully

compare the cost and benefits of regulations so that

we don't impose any unnecessary burdens on business.

But the Contract With America, literally read,

could pile so many new requirements on government

that nothing would ever get done. It would add to

the very things that people have been complaining

about for years -- too many lawsuits, everything

winds up in court. The Contract, literally read,

would override every single health and safety law on

the books, distort the process by giving

industry-paid scientists undue influence over rules

that govern their employers in the name of private

property, could literally bust the budget by

requiring the government to pay polluters every time

an environmental law puts limits on profits.

These are extreme proposals. They go too far.

They would cost lives and dollars. A small army of

special interest lobbyists knows they can never get

away with an outright repeal of consumer or

environmental protection. But why bother if you can

paralyze the government by process? Surely, after

years and years and years of people screaming about

excessive governmental process, we won't just go

to an even bigger round of process to tilt the

process itself in another direction. We cannot

strip away safeguards for families in this


Here in our audience today are real people on

whose behalf we act or we might have acted. There's

a father in this audience whose son died from E.

coli bacteria and food that might have been

discovered if our proposed rule had been in effect

when his son ate the contaminated food. There are

people here whose lives were saved by air bags.

Let's not forget these people as we cut red tape and

bureaucracy. There's a woman here whose a breast

cancer survivor who lost a child to cancer, who

lives in an area unusually high in the density of

people who suffer from cancer. Let's not forget the

kind of work that still needs to be done.

At every stage in the history of this country,

our government has always had to change to meet the

needs of changing times. And we need to change now.

We need a government that's smaller and more

entrepreneurial, that provides a lot less hassle,

that realizes that there are an awful lot of people

out there in the private sector who have enlightened

views and they want to do the right thing, and they

need to be helped instead of hindered in that.

I would never defend the culture of this

community when it is wrong. But let us also not

forget that as we strive for a government that is

costing less and less and is more flexible, that is

producing better results and not more rules, that we

have a job to do for the American people, and that

people are entitled to protection. So, I echo

again what the Vice President said earlier: Reform,

yes. Bring it on. Roll back, no. There is too much

good to do to turn this noble enterprise into

something that we would live to regret. Let us

instead work to do what must be done.

Thank you very much.

End 1:05 pm EST

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