President Obama can stimulate job growth immediately, but to do so he will have to rein in the environmental activist zealots he has employed throughout the executive branch. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service were not designed to become job-killing machines. The Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act and the Endangered Species Act were not intended by their drafters to become captives of the most extreme anti-growth ideologues of the environmental left.

Regulatory gangrene set in long ago, however, and these agencies have seen their core missions poisoned, becoming along the way vast engines of regulations, permits, fines and injunctions.

American productivity has staggered under the blows, and nothing approaching a comparable benefit has been achieved by the enormous and escalating cost extracted by these agencies applying these laws over the past two decades.

Each of these agencies has accomplished some wonderful things, and each continues to contribute important services to the nation, but as the decades have rolled on from the years of the Nixon administration in which all three laws were originally passed, the constant pressure from the environmental left has bent the agencies into an iron triangle of growth-throttling litigation, complexity and inertia.

Farmers in California's great Central Valley, for example, have been denied the water necessary to grow vast amounts of food because of the alleged effects of pumps on the delta smelt, just one of scores of Endangered Species Act fiascoes that have plagued the Golden State for the past 20 years, and which have involved birds that number in the thousands, like the California gnatcatcher, and insects as obscure as the Delhi Sands flower-loving fly.

Despite a 2006 Supreme Court decision on the reach of the Clean Water Act, the Corps of Engineers remains overwhelmed by disputes on exactly what it is supposed to be regulating, and environmental activists frequently sue the agency over its determinations, in court proceedings that stop home and commercial construction in their tracks and with them the tens of thousands of jobs they support in a state with 12 percent unemployment.

And now the EPA is unleashing its war on carbon dioxide, a stretching of the mandate of the Clean Air Act beyond anything its framers would have recognized and which is, thank goodness, triggering a reaction from a Congress that sees the agency as grabbing the authority the legislature specifically refused to bestow when cap-and-trade was defeated in the 111th Congress.

Obama is the chief cheerleader of this regulatory overreach, and all proclamations of his "turn to the center" ignore that the president has done nothing to curb the excesses of these agencies even as he proclaims yet another focus on jobs.

The best jobs program the president could come up with right now is an order to the EPA to abandon its ill-conceived power grab aimed first at refineries and other plants, followed by his express direction to the Corps and the Service to move permit applications from land owners forward without regard to the threats from the far left which are routinely thrown down and which agency personnel cite as reasons for inaction even as joblessness in the building industry cripples many state economies.

If the president pushes his own appointees at these key agencies to concentrate on assisting applicants, approving permits and limiting new regulations, tens of thousands of good jobs building houses, apartments, businesses and the infrastructure to support them will be created in 2011.

And the president will have finally done more than talk a good game on jobs.

Examiner Columnist Hugh Hewitt is a law professor at Chapman University Law School and a nationally syndicated radio talk show host who blogs daily at