COLUMN RIGHT/ ALLAN B. HUBBARD : ‘Iron Triangle’ Would Quash Competitiveness : It’s only the special interests and bureaucrats who can’t see the value of cutting red tape.

<i> Allan B. Hubbard is deputy chief of staff to Vice President Dan Quayle and executive director of the Council on Competitiveness</i>

The Bush Administration has been hearing ideas from all over the country about how to generate jobs and economic growth to restart our stagnant economy. Most involve difficult choices or trade-offs. But one idea is so clearly correct that there shouldn’t be any debate about it: We have to get government bureaucrats off the back of our economy, reducing red tape so that businessmen can invest, workers can work and consumers can make choices.

This philosophy is what has allowed the U.S. economy to grow and become the envy of the world. Yet our attempts to reinvigorate these principles are viewed as a subversive challenge to business as usual in Washington. The President’s Council on Competitiveness, chaired by Vice President Dan Quayle, is seen in some quarters as the source of all evil. The “iron triangle,” that potent mix of unelected Congressional staff, special interests and government bureaucrats, is mobilized to stop the council in any way possible.

The basic problem is easy to describe. Real gains against excessive regulation were made during the Reagan Administration. But there is constant pressure for re-regulation from the iron triangle, and without strong leadership from the President, the growth of red tape, needless litigation and counterproductive rules would quickly return to Carter Administration levels. Two years ago, President Bush asked Quayle to make certain that this didn’t happen.

Each year, the government spews out about 2,200 brand-new regulations that are published in 53,000 pages of fine print in a publication called The Federal Register. On top of this, Americans are required to fill out thousands of different forms annually. It’s estimated that Americans spend 5.2 billion hours to fill out all those forms. That’s the equivalent of 2.6 million employees working full-time, year-round.


This is why the Competitiveness Council has focused on eliminating red tape and cutting back on needless, wasteful litigation. We want to get America moving again by giving people control over their own lives, their businesses and their jobs. Then the entrepreneurial engine of our economy will be freed to work its miracles.

Here’s an overview of the council’s work:

Speeding up the drug approval process. We’ve identified 11 specific reforms to cut in half the time it takes to get drugs for life-threatening illnesses to market. The initiative offers renewed hope to sufferers of AIDS, cystic fibrosis, cancer, Alzheimer’s and other deadly or incurable diseases.

Eliminating excessive litigation. We put forward 50 specific proposals to reduce costs in our civil justice system, which sometimes seems designed to benefit only the lawyers involved.


Biotechnology development. We’ve reduced red tape for this 21st-Century industry that promises so many breakthroughs in food production, environmental protection and other areas.

Clean Air Act. While pledged to achieve the very strict air quality standards written into this Bush Administration initiative, we are making certain that its regulations are promulgated at the least possible cost to the economy.

Private property rights. Former Communist countries have learned the hard way that without private property, prosperity is impossible. In the United States, the threat to private property comes from government takeover without compensation. In 1989, the federal bureaucracy attempted one of the largest land grabs in modern times, removing nearly 100 million acres of dry land from possible development by issuing a new definition of “wetlands.” We are in the process of unraveling the resulting chaos even while honoring then-Vice President Bush’s 1988 pledge of “no net loss of wetlands.”

One example highlights the difficulties we face. The very day that we announced our drug-approval initiative, the Food and Drug Administration received a threatening letter signed by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.)and Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles) demanding an indefinite delay in implementing these life-saving ideas. The main reason seemed to be that these members of Congress have a vested interest in the status quo and resist any changes, even ones that will save lives.


In our actions, we have insisted that the regulatory process be accountable to the President, who is elected to direct the executive branch. This is threatening to the iron triangle, which was elected by nobody. We of the Competitiveness Council are determined to oppose those special interests and continue our work for the American people.