Huffpost Politics
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Blanche Lincoln Headshot

Avoid Extremes to Solve Our Nation's Problems

Posted: Updated:

Unrelenting partisanship can strangle our nation's political process and divert our energies from building our economy. And in the midst of this year's deficit debate, we're seeing a great deal of that deleterious behavior playing out inside the Beltway.


When adhering to a partisan mindset, lawmakers reject any ideas that originate from their opposition, regardless of merit. And the political welfare of our nation -- which is increasingly comprised of independents who are practically and politically moderate problem solvers -- suffers as a result.


This partisanship has been evident in the current debate over federal regulations. Catering to their base, the administration has been resolute in its pursuit of aggressive, sometimes duplicative, and often excessive regulatory agendas. And all of these, as we know, come with a hefty price tag -- ill-timed as we continue to see stagnant job growth and unemployment numbers.


Some Republicans, on the other hand, tout points calling for the dismantling of EPA, the end of regulation, and the unshackling of our economy. But any unbiased observer can see that such drastic action is uncalled for.


Rather than adhering so closely to talking points and principal, our regulators and lawmakers need to turn their focus to sensibility and common sense. Regulation does not have to be -- and should not be -- the political football that it has become in recent years. And history demonstrates this to be true.


The carbon monoxide standards which limit the allowable level of the pollutant in cities over any given eighthour period have remained constant since 1971. The Environmental Protection Agency recently announced that the existing limit of 9 parts per million adequately protects human health and the environment, adding stability to businesses forced to comply with the measure. This decades-old standard is a prime example of the type of long-lasting, effecting regulation we need.


Unfortunately, this kind of symbiotic relationship is far from a foregone conclusion when creating regulations.


Since the 1970s, EPA has defined milk as an "oil" and regulated it accordingly. That meant the agency subjected a small family dairy farm in Pennsylvania to the same costly rules designed to prevent oil spills as drilling operators in the Gulf of Mexico.


U.S. regulatory czar Cass Sunstein recently applauded the agency for saving America's milk industry as much as $1.4 billion over the next decade by exempting it from the rule back in May. However, the refinement of this rule raises larger questions: what kind of regulatory process would enable such a costly, clearly irrational rule to weigh on American small businesses for nearly 40 years? How much can we save other industries in the next decade that they could reinvest in job creation?


This systemic problem extends to pending regulations as well.


These programs have consequences for everyday businesspeople, often forcing them to hire legal teams and compliance officers, buy new equipment, change practices, or limit growth or expansion. Randy O'Dell of Greenville, Ohio was forced to pay $200,000 for equipment to meet EPA standards at his glassmaking company in 2006, standards that were later relaxed. Efforts to create new jobs at a company like O'Dell's Jafe Decorating come to a standstill when regulations become overly burdensome. Creating a level of uncertainty brings reinvestment to a halt.


These challenges to our small businesses and the communities and neighborhoods they serve illustrate why I'm chairing the Small Businesses for Sensible Regulations campaign to restore sensibility to our regulatory process using practical solutions. This balance will require compromise to ensure that regulations are adding benefit to people's lives today without charging the bill to future generations.

The sooner we remove incendiary politics from our nation's rulemaking process, the sooner we can restore the health of our economy -- and our political culture.

Blanche Lincoln is a former U.S. Senator from Arkansas and the chair of the National Federation of Independent Businesses' Small Businesses for Sensible Regulations campaign.

Around the Web

Obama Picks a Fight to Define 2012 Election: Margaret Carlson

Perry vs. Romney: Does it matter whom Obama faces in 2012? In short, yes.

David Weprin's loss in New York presages President Obama's defeat in 2012

O'Malley praises Rick Perry, predicts Obama win in 2012

Obama 2012 & The Jews - the ground just shifted

Obama Plan Won't Include Changes to Social Security

Electoral college switch could hurt Obama in 2012

As Obama falters, are Hispanics an opportunity for GOP?

Column: Obama in 2012

<strong>Kucinich, Democrats: Obama Needs a Primary Challenger </strong>

  Obama Romney
Obama Romney
332 206
Obama leading
Obama won
Romney leading
Romney won
Popular Vote
33 out of 100 seats are up for election. 51 are needed for a majority.
Democrat leading
Democrat won
Holdover
Republican leading
Republican won
Democrats* Republicans
Current Senate 53 47
Seats gained or lost +2 -2
New Total 55 45
* Includes two independent senators expected to caucus with the Democrats: Angus King (Maine) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.).
All 435 seats are up for election. 218 are needed for a majority.
Democrat leading
Democrat won
Republican leading
Republican won
Democrats Republicans
Seats won 201 234
Click for Full Results