Watchdog: ‘Job killing’ regulations have been anything but

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The report looked at the fights over the Family and Medical Leave Act, the banning of lead in gasoline, laws restricting public smoking and the CARD Act that was signed by President Obama in 2009.

“The proposed regulation initially prompts industry to conjure dramatic language about the damage it will cause. Then, the regulation takes effect and wins broad public approval,” the report says. “Meanwhile, industry’s ominous predictions quietly recede from memory after they fail to materialize.”

In the case of the Family and Medical Leave Act, which allows workers to take unpaid leave in situations where they become ill or must take care of a relative, then-Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in 1993 that the “light of freedom will grow dimmer” if the regulations became law. 

Public Citizen couples the statement from now-Speaker Boehner with a 2000 study conducted by Columbia University, which found that 9 out of 10 employers covered by the Family Medical Leave Act said it “had no noticeable effect on their business performance.”

Similarly, when the Environmental Protection Agency decided that tetraethyl lead — used as a gasoline additive — was dangerous to public health and banned it, the oil and petrochemical industries revolted.

Dow Chemical Co. said the 1986 ban would put 14 million to 29 million Americans directly and indirectly dependent on the petrochemical industry out of work. However, the top five oil companies have reaped a total of more than $1 trillion in profits over the last decade, Public Citizen said.

“Lead was removed from gasoline nearly 40 years ago, but the sky didn’t fall,” the report says. “The Family and Medical Leave Act passed 20 years ago and more than 100 million workers have taken advantage of its provisions without bringing the country to its knees.”

Turning to the future, Public Citizen cited a National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) statement opposing rules that have been sitting at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs since 2011. Those rules would compel businesses to better protect workers from silica particles that can cause lung cancer and a lung disease called silicosis.

"Using history as their guide, legislators and regulators would be wise to greet claims with extreme skepticism," the organization concludes.

Joe Trauger, NAM's vice president of human resources policy, said the study ignores the broader regulatory burden that businesses face.

"To dismiss individual regulations willingly and dangerously ignores the fact that they are cumulative in nature," he said in a statement to The Hill. "The proposed silica rule will add costs to the industry, but at the heart of the issue, the benefits of a silica regulation have been greatly inflated, and there are more effective ways to promote worker safety at far less cost."