It's been a bit of a crazy week here in Washington, and lost in the coverage between the earthquake and the approaching hurricane was the news that the Obama administration is cutting hundreds of regulations, in order to reduce the burdens on business and save up to $10 billion in taxpayer funds. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor immediately called the regulatory review "underwhelming."
The better answer, put in poker terms: I see your $10 billion and I'll raise you by another $10 billion. Cantor should have praised Obama's proposals as a good, however small, first step and then gone on to propose even more rollbacks of onerous regulations. A press release Cantor put out this week promised that "next month, the House will continue our jobs focus and pursue a legislative agenda that boosts economic growth through reducing the regulatory and tax burden." The release lists a few initiatives that will be part of next month's legislative agenda, but not very many. [Check out a roundup of editorial cartoons on the economy.]
Cantor should have released the House Republicans' list of pro-business ideas now. As Maureen Dowd put it recently, why "the fierce urgency of next month?" Building on the administration's proposals as a starting point and releasing a much more wide-ranging agenda of pro-business proposals would have sent a great message—not only about finding common ground, but about moving a job-creation agenda forward faster than expected. It's time to start putting out detailed proposals that will create certainty for businesses when it comes to looming regulations, taxes, and healthcare costs.
While they're at it, Republicans should tell Americans about the "grand bargain" they were interested in negotiating with the president for entitlement reform, overhauling the tax code, and putting spending restraints in place to reduce the debt—and how the president refused to agree to entitlement reform. Maybe they can re-open negotiations in order to avert a disastrous result from the "super committee" this fall, which has become another source of uncertainty for businesses on both Main Street and Wall Street. [Vote now: Who won the debt ceiling standoff?]
If Republicans think the cards the president is holding aren't so great, then they should show us that they've got a better hand. Otherwise both sides look like they're bluffing.