Some Preliminary Thoughts on Curbing U.S. Regulatory Burdens

Alden Abbott —  26 September 2015

The costs imposed by government regulation are huge and growing.  The Heritage Foundation produces detailed annual reports cataloguing the rising burden of the American regulatory state, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute recently estimated that regulations impose a $1.88 trillion annual tax on the U.S. economy.  Yet the need to rein in the regulatory behemoth has attracted relatively little attention in the early stages of the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.  That may be changing, however.

On September 23, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush authored a short Wall Street Journal op-ed that set forth his ideas for curbing the “regulation tax.”  Governor Bush’s op-ed focuses on a host of particulars – including, for example, repealing specific onerous Environmental Protection rules, repealing significant parts of the Dodd-Frank Act, repealing and replacing Obamacare, putting federal agencies on a “regulatory budget” (requiring a dollar of regulatory savings per each dollar of regulatory costs proposed), curbing frivolous regulatory litigation, streamlining regulatory approval processes, and a greater emphasis on private and state-driven solutions.  Logical extensions of these initiatives, such as supplemental executive orders putting more “teeth” into routine regulatory review and support for the REINS Act (which would require congressional approval of “major” regulations), readily suggest themselves.

Regulatory reform initiatives have a long history.  A particularly notable example is the Reagan Administration’s 1981 efforts to curb excessive regulation through the Task Force on Regulatory Relief, which was linked to systematic White House review (through the Office of Management and Budget) of significant proposed regulations – a process that continues to this day (albeit imperfectly, to say the least).  It is to be hoped that all other presidential candidates will also think about and prepare their own regulatory reform proposals.  This should not be deemed a partisan issue.  President Carter, after all, promoted regulatory reform and ushered in welfare-enhancing transportation deregulation, and President Clinton touted deregulation accomplished during the first term of his presidency.)

In short, done properly, reducing regulatory burdens should “supercharge” U.S. economic growth and enhance efficiency, without harming consumers or the environment – indeed, consumers and the environment should benefit long-term from smarter, streamlined, cost-beneficial regulation.

Alden Abbott

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I am a Senior Legal Fellow at the Heritage Foundation. I write on antitrust, domestic and international regulatory policy, and law and economics. I am an Adjunct Faculty Member at George Mason Law School.