Regulatory burden


Dear Donald –

I have to give you credit. You’re moving ahead with all of your campaign promises, no matter how inane or disconnected from reality they may be. You gave people plenty of warning as to what was coming, so no one can claim to be surprised. But your most recent executive order just shows a complete lack of understanding about how government works on a fundamental level and ultimately hamstrings you more than anyone else. Let’s take a look. 

Your most recent order tells all agencies that for every new regulation enacted, two should be deleted. Supposedly this is meant to reduce burden on businesses and thereby end the American carnage, make America great again, Anerica first, and all that. It’s a plan your great aunt Mildred or drunk uncle Jeff would come up with, not anyone who he any clue about how this works. 

First off, there’s absolutely zero clarity about what constitutes a “regulation.” The Code of Federal Regulations has 50 titles, each one concerning a particular policy area – agriculture, highways, immigration, employee benefits, the judiciary, and on and on. Each title is made up of a different number of parts, each of which is made up of sections. Which one constitutes a regulation? Is it one of these, or does it refer to the documents when one of these sections are rewritten? 

Think of Federal regulations like a big book that keeps getting edited. You’ve basically just said that for every section that gets changed, two have to go. Well, how much has to go? What constitutes a section? If I add a comma or change a single word, do I have to delete two whole chapters?

Also, not very piece of the regulations is created equal. Some create very large burdens, while others do little at all. An agency could easily comply with this order by passing a regulation that creates $100 million of burden while just deleting the section describing what its seal looks like. Does that reduce regulatory burden? 

An order that would actually be effective could, for example:

  • Direct all agencies to submit a formal plan within 120 days for reducing regulatory burden, with an emphasis on regulations that disproportionately impact small entities
  • Lower the threshold for “significant regulatory action” to ensure that more regulations are subject to increased oversight
  • Require all new regulations not required by new or revised statutory authorities to demonstrate a net negative burden (by including cost savings related to repealed regulations)
  • Direct OMB to revise its procedures for reviewing new regulatory proposals with a view to minimize burden on small entities 

As we’ve seen this far, you don’t seem particularly concerned with effective management, but you should probably get concerned with it, and fast. 

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