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President Obama Pledges To Loosen Regulations… Or Does He?

by Stuart Shapiro

In an op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal, an executive order, and a presidential memorandum issued today, President Obama ordered federal agencies to reexamine their regulations and eliminate senseless and duplicative ones and to continue to use benefit cost analysis to make regulatory decisions.  From the WSJ:

This order requires that federal agencies ensure that regulations protect our safety, health and environment while promoting economic growth. And it orders a government-wide review of the rules already on the books to remove outdated regulations that stifle job creation and make our economy less competitive. It’s a review that will help bring order to regulations that have become a patchwork of overlapping rules, the result of tinkering by administrations and legislators of both parties and the influence of special interests in Washington over decades.

My friends on the left are not happy.

…the President embraces a frame for the coming discussion about the role of regulation in society that is right out of the Republican hymnal, calling for “balance” between safety and economic growth, and bemoaning regulations that sometimes “plac[e] unreasonable burdens on business—burdens that have stifled innovation and have had a chilling effect on growth and jobs.”

I would advise them to chill out.  Much of the Order and the memorandum is reaffirming executive branch policy that has been endorsed by every president (Democrat and Republican) since President Nixon.  And much of it is echoes good government arguments such as reducing duplication and waste and achieving regulatory goals in a cost-effective manner.  The only truly new thing in here could be somewhat revolutionary in its ability to force regulatory compliance.  From the memorandum:

First, agencies with broad regulatory compliance and administrative enforcement responsibilities, within 120 days of this memorandum, to the extent feasible and permitted by law, shall develop plans to make public information concerning their regulatory compliance and enforcement activities accessible, downloadable, and searchable online.

Public airing of which coproprate actors have been naughty and which have been nice may do more to force good behavior than anything short of a major increase in enforcement personnel.  And we all know Congress isn’t going to pay for that.

About Stuart Shapiro

Stuart Shapiro Stuart is a professor and the Director of the Public Policy program at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University. He teaches economics and cost-benefit analysis and studies regulation in the United States at both the federal and state levels. Prior to coming to Rutgers, Stuart worked for five years at the Office of Management and Budget in Washington under Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush.

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