Private Sector Likely to See Federal Regulations Grow with Clinton in White House

Article excerpt

FROM food to finance, Americans will feel more government regulations affecting their daily lives.

Earlier this fall, Congress passed legislation to provide consumers with relief from exorbitant cable-television subscription rates. President Bush's action last week to revamp the food industry's food labeling rules means grocery shoppers will soon have more accurate information about store products.

Private health-care providers are now asking for more government intervention in the marketplace to help provide insurance for currently uninsured individuals and families.

And all of this has occurred as President-elect Clinton - who has promised to push for his own set of laws mandating changes in areas ranging from the environment to health care - plans his Washington arrival.

Mr. Clinton's approach could be a dramatic departure from the Bush administration, which has imposed a moratorium on new regulations since January 1991.

While many measures are good news for consumers and workers, business leaders and economists warn that they are wary of the impact of some of Uncle Sam's regulations. Political pressure

"Given Clinton's campaign ties to special interests, he is under political pressure that may prompt him to do more than he wants to in terms of regulating the private sector," says John Cregan, president of the conservative US Business and Industrial Council.

The president-elect's plans to mandate business provisions for employee benefits through payroll tax increases, "are essentially regulations because they command compliance," Mr. Cregan says. Small- and medium-sized firms, which provide most of the new jobs, will be hit hard. Many large firms view Clinton's plans to require employers to pick up the cost of family leave, health care insurance, and other benefits as an opportunity to share with smaller firms a burden they have already assumed, he says.

But big business has a hawk's eye on government efforts to reconfigure the economy. "A lot of business has a protectionist view toward regulation," Cregan says. He offers utilities as an example, explaining that when antitrust laws are enforced, it creates openings for competitors.

In examining regulatory costs, an Office of Management and Budget study states that besides costs to business, which will inevitably be handed down to the consumer in the form of higher prices, the true costs of regulations should reflect money spent on efforts to reposition workers displaced due to the new laws. …