President Barack Obama penned an op-ed in this morning's Wall Street Journal that reads like an apology to the business community. During the first two years, the Obama administration focused on economic recovery and the prevention of a future meltdown through financial regulatory reform. Today, however, his positions seems to have shifted as he announces a new executive order to review federal regulations and eliminate rules where possible.
Citing recent healthcare legislation and financial regulatory reform, major American corporations are shying away from spending money on growth. This is despite the fact that these companies hold over $2 trillion in cash and liquid assets.
The argument for less regulation reads somewhat antithetically. Obama is quick to point out how regulation places "unreasonable burdens on business — burdens that have stifled innovation and have had a chilling effect on growth and jobs." His executive order promises to eliminate "absurd and unnecessary paperwork requirements that waste time and money" as well as "avoid excessive, inconsistent and redundant regulation."
But in the same breath, he recognizes how a lack of government oversight nearly caused the next Great Depression. In the president's words:
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.
Obama supports his arguments using examples that range from baby formula to saccharine, from workplace safety to more fuel-efficient cars. He also mentions how he will strive to cut regulation most where it limits small business.
Beyond the brief mea culpa for the government's failure in the financial crisis, however, there is no mention of regulatory reform in the financial sector. It left unclear, then, which regulations Obama means when he promises to get rid of the "dumb" ones?
ABC's Jake Tapper has already identified today's op-ed and executive order to follow as "another proverbial move to center" for Obama. Having named Wall St. veteran Bill Daley as his new chief-of-staff and coasting on soaring approval ratings in the wake of the Arizona shootings, the timing seems just about right.