Deregulate to Stimulate: #NeverNeeded Regulations Are Harming Health and Economy

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The Code of Federal Regulations contains more than 1.1 million regulatory restrictions spread out over 185,000 pages. State and local governments have additional rules. Some of those rules have a valid purpose. Many others are making the COVID-19 crisis worse than it has to be. They get in between sick people and the health care they need. They make it harder for people to keep their jobs or educate their children during lockdown. If these rules are harmful during a crisis, they were probably never needed in the first place—hence CEI’s #NeverNeeded campaign.

CEI has produced a slew of studies, events, and commentary on everything from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) mission creep to the Jones Act, which makes shipping slower and more expensive. There is also the #NeverNeeded hashtag on social media, which has brought together policy experts, policy makers, activists, and media outlets.

There are a lot to important reforms keep track of, so we put together an infographic that collects in one place the most urgent #NeverNeeded regulations that need reform. These focus on fighting COVID itself, and on making the economic recovery easier once it is safe to do so:

  • First and foremost, the Food and Drug Administration needs to speed up its approval process. For the average drug, this process can take a decade and cost several hundred million dollars. COVID-19 treatments must not take this long.
  • Public transportation is not exactly conducive to social distancing. Urban planners should stop trying to shoehorn people into it with a complicated web of subsidies, taxes, building and street regulations, and more. Right now, cars are safer. When the pandemic passes, people should be allowed choose their transportation options for themselves, on the level.
  • The recent decision to liberalize the Environmental Protection Agency’s rules related to the National Environmental Policy Act was a wise one. Permitting processes and environmental inspections long ago crossed from being a reasonable precaution into a politicized, ideological weapon.
  • Doctors and nurses face licensing restrictions that keep qualified people out. Loosening them to reasonable levels would make health care more abundant and more affordable. This is good policy during good times; right now, it is essential.
  • Higher utility bills are the last thing people need when record numbers of people are on unemployment insurance and small businesses are going under at alarming rates. Restrictions on fracking and other affordable energy technologies might be a burden people can bear during a boom, but not now.
  • Some cities have already rolled back their bans on single-use plastics, such as bags and straws. More need to. Plastics are vital for sanitation and preventing the spread of diseases, including COVID.
  • The Centers for Disease Control recently spent $125 million on a campaign against vaping. This and its many other other lifestyle-focused programs left the agency distracted and underprepared for the coronavirus outbreak. The CDC should get out of the lifestyle business and focus on its core mission of controlling diseases.
  • People spend more on gas than they need to, thanks to ethanol requirements in gasoline. Economists and environmentalists agree that the program has dubious environmental benefits. Instead, it raises gas and food prices while increasing the need for farmland. That means less habitat for wildlife and less money left over for families who need to stretch every dollar during lockdown.
  • Rules that discriminate against independent contractors, such as California’s AB5 legislation, had already put thousands of people out of work before COVID-19 hit. At a time when many people, especially high-risk individuals, need to work from home when possible, AB5 and similar proposals make that difficult or impossible. Rules that harm both public health and the economy need to go.

For more reform ideas and resources, see