Why haven't you heard all this good news? Because it's pretty boring, really. The scary part is all the bad news we didn't really hear about over the last 30 years, as these regulatory bodies were steadily dismantled, underfunded and stuffed with private sector hacks. All those gory details, plus reasons to be happy about Obama, after the jump.
It begins with Reagan's contempt for "experts" and his love of private sector know-how:
—Thorne Auchter, vice president of a construction firm, appointed head of OSHA (you know, to monitor work-place safety and such?)
—Anne Gorsuch, appointed EPA head, was "a rising member of the Colorado House of Representatives, where she was part of a conservative group known as the “House crazies.”"
Fifteen years later, George W. Bush takes it a step further, as Judis describes:
Bush appointed a mining company executive to head the Mine Safety and Health Administration and a trucking company executive to head the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. To lead OSHA, he named Edwin G. Foulke Jr., a longtime foe of the agency who had advised companies on how to block union organization.
And don't forget FEMA's Michael "Great job, Brownie" Brown, ex-commissioner of the International Arabian Horse Association. Also, the man charged with enforcing the Clean Air Act? Jeffery Holmstead, former rep for the Chemical Manufacturers Association. COGNITIVE DISSONANCE ABOUNDS.
And then to the crippling cuts:
—Under George W. Bush, the EPA’s funding dropped 27 percent.
—Personnel at the National Labor Relations Board, responsible for enforcing labor laws, has fallen 41.8 percent over the last 30 years... almost as much as the personnel drop for those regulating mine safety!
So, that's the bad news. The good news? Obama is very, very aggressively changing both the philosophical and practical approach to America's regulatory boards. Judis's money quote:
Obama’s regulatory appointments could not be more different—no surprise given that he is the son of two social scientists and that he once worked in academia himself. Indeed, the flow of expertise into the federal bureaucracy over the past year has been reminiscent of what took place at the start of the New Deal.
A few select appointments:
—to head OSHA, David Michaels, a professor of occupational and environmental health at George Washington University. Yup, an academic.
—to head the FDA, Margaret Hamburg, former health commissioner of New York City, where she oversaw a sharp decline in tuberculosis.
And how about more funding:
[Obama] asked for $10.5 billion for the EPA for 2010—a 34 percent jump over 2009, and the first time in eight years that the budget had increased.
So, maybe we all shouldn't be so depressed quite yet. Thanks New Republic! Thanks President Obama!