U.S. Regulator Admits: We Have Too Much Power

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It’s not often you get a person to admit they have too much power, and it’s an even rarer occurrence for that person to hold down a job in Washington, D.C. So Commissioner Ann Marie Buerkle of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission deserves all the credit in the world for telling an Independent Women’s Forum panel that federal regulators need to be reigned in.

“Congress does not do the oversight that they should on the regulatory agencies,” Buerkle said Thursday. “If they’re watching us do any kind of a regulation or promote a policy that is contrary to what they intended or contrary to the will of the American people, they can defund us like that.”

Unfortunately, Buerkle said, there has been a “huge shift from the legislative branch to the executive branch, where it is top heavy in power.”

In an interview with CNS News, Buerkle explained that much of what drove regulatory agencies like her own was an unquenchable thirst for growth.

“Every year my colleagues go to the Hill and ask for more money, and I’m sitting there saying, ‘No, we don’t need any more money. We’ve got quite enough money,’ but they want to grow,” she said. “They want to be relevant.”

Additionally, Buerkle said that her agency was more concerned about flashy issues featured on television than serious concerns exposed by research and data. “One of the things that just drives me insane in our agency is rather than looking at data, we will react to a 60 Minutes story or we will react to a newspaper article rather than looking to the data and seeing whether or not it supports doing something on that issue,” she said.

Buerkle’s concerns aren’t limited to federal regulators. This is the fundamental problem with bureaucracy. By the very nature of human self-interest, these agencies are constantly looking out for their own survival. The more funding they get, the more pies in which they have their fingers, the more employees that depend on them for their livelihoods, the harder it is to get rid of them. It’s less about what’s good for the American public and more about what’s good for Agency X.

With sound, principled leadership in Congress and the White House, this kind of runaway bureaucracy can be stopped in its tracks. But we haven’t had anything like that in a very long time.