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Raid on the red tape ; Attack on needless regulation important to nation's economy

Who says there is little bipartisan agreement?

Just recently, President Obama announced an executive order and laid out two presidential memoranda that were met with general Republican approval, along with a call to do more.

The moves were made in order to lay out a regulatory strategy that straddles the need to protect public health and safety while freeing business to pursue profits.

Thus, the president has ordered every federal agency to conduct a systematic review of existing regulations in an effort to cut out the red tape and make it easier for businesses to do business. What a concept.

It's an important effort that Obama must ensure is shepherded into reality. Regulations have a way of piling up, sometimes becoming contradictory or outdated. Government has an appropriate and critical role in protecting Americans' health and safety, but where regulations become needless, the cost to Americans can be counted in jobs and opportunities.

Indeed, some regulations were so convolutedly written that they have been incomprehensible. Obama himself wrote a column in the Wall Street Journal noting that the Food and Drug Administration has long considered saccharine, the artificial sweetener, safe for consumption and yet, for years, the Environmental Protection Agency forced companies to treat saccharine the same as other dangerous chemicals.

As the president said, "Well, if it goes in your coffee, it is not hazardous waste."

The EPA nixed that rule last month.

Obama also pointed to recent cooperation between the EPA and the Department of Transportation working with automakers, labor unions and environmental advocates on fuel economy standards for cars and trucks. In addition, the FDA is expected to present a new effort to improve the process for approving medical devices, with an eye toward safety, of course.

The government should do more of its work online, the president believes, just as private companies. It's become a fact of life today that, in addition to being asked "paper or plastic," companies are now asking customers whether they prefer to "go green" and receive statements and information online.

It's all part of his goal to create a 21st century regulatory system. It is an achievable project that will require some small and doable actions as well as some larger ones.

As Thomas J. Donahue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, recently said, it's a positive first step. But Donahue would like to see more for business, including a Congress that reclaims some of the authority it has delegated to agencies, while implementing checks and balances in order to repeal or replace outdated or ineffective regulations.

Senior aides have said that the president has given agencies 120 days to create a plan for reviewing regulations. That's a start, but the plan has to be followed with the actual review and then action to remove unneeded barriers. This effort to cut through governmental red tape must not, itself, become lost in it.

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