Beyond The Fiscal Cliff, Bipartisan Regulatory Reform

If I’m reading this right, the Progressive Policy Institute wants to roll back some over-regulation. It’s not clear how much, but it does seem to be a visible amount.

The PPI’s February 2011 policy report, Reviving Jobs and Innovation: a Progressive Approach to Improving Regulation, calls for a Regulatory Improvement Commission to weed out regulations that have accumulated like “barnacles.”

PPI is right that rules that may be beneficial individually can be harmful when accumulated. I’d go further and say bureaucratic regulation can undermine the real thing, but that’s for another day.

The breakthrough is the bipartisan recognition the federal rulemaking process knows how to add but not subtract.

Rules have accumulated at the rate of at least 3,500 annually over the past decade. They averaged even higher before that.

PPI’s idea is similar to a proposal from former U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas. CEI has long urged a regulatory reduction commission framework as well. Hell, even Twitter’s @THEHermanCain favored a version of the idea. Yep, Mr. 9-9-9.

The first explicit formalization of the idea of assembling a bi-partisan commission as applied to regulation (as opposed to spending, which dates even earlier) was Sen. Gramm’s Commission on Regulatory Relief and Rollback that he outlined in a Dear Colleague letter on Feb. 14, 1995. I worked for the senator at the time.

Various proposals’ mechanics are different, but the concepts are the same. All invoke the military base closure and realignment commission’s mechanism that addressed the politically impossible task of closing obsolete bases one at a time by assembling a bundle of them to vote on at once, making whiners look unreasonable.

Newly politically palatable and realistically bipartisan (how could it not be, with the economy still in a funk), the regulatory reduction commission is where the incoming 113th Congress will find the lowest-hanging fruit on the non-spending elements of economic liberalization.

We need rollbacks and other reforms in 2013 to cope with what appears to be at least $1.8 trillion in annual regulatory impacts.

Another option appealing to both parties is the “pay as you go” concept described byU.S.  Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., to remove a rule to offset the cost of each new one added. The idea is praised by Republicans and Democrats. Also we have the example of the United Kingdom, where the “one-in, one-out” process has been implemented to some extent.

Pay-go or one-in, one-out amount to capping regulatory costs where they are right now; can someone say, “regulatory budget”? Might as well, since no one’s saying “fiscal budget.”