Imagine There’s No Agency

Washington spends and regulates, and it’s hard to make it stop doing either. Government agencies and programs attract constituencies that want to keep them around, however wasteful.

Such big problems require big solutions that spread the risk of political fallout, by assembling a bi-partisan package of cuts and requiring an up-or-down vote.

So, against the backdrop of a $3.5 trillion federal budget, trillions in deficit spending, and over $1 trillion in annual regulatory costs besides, comes H.R. 1023, the “Federal Agency Program Realignment and Closure Act,” introduced February 12 by Rep. John Sullivan (R-OK).

In a political environment ballooning with unrestrained new government programs, his bill would “establish a commission to recommend the elimination or realignment of Federal agencies that are duplicative or perform functions that would be more efficient on a non-Federal level.”

The proper response to the economic crisis is to “liberate to stimulate,” not just spend more taxpayer dollars. H.R. 1023 is one of the few attempts to implement economic liberalization and force government belt-tightening.

Of course, it will still take years to implement the commission’s actual reductions. Another difficulty is that the specific regulatory programs under each agency also have cheereleaders. So in the meantime, freezes, purges and the like should be actively pursued; those can be based on gleaning better information about just what it is that the dozens of agencies are up to. A “Regulatory Report Card” like the below is one way to do it.

Regulatory Report Card …with 5-year historical tables…

•Total major ($100 million-plus) rules and minor rules by regulatory agency
•Numbers/percentages of rules impacting small business
•Numbers/percentages featuring numerical cost estimates
•Tallies of cost estimates, with subtotals by agencies and grand total
•Numbers and percentages failing to provide cost estimates
•Federal Register analysis: Pages, proposed and final rules by agency
•Most active rule-making agencies
•Rules that are deregulatory rather than regulatory
•Rules that affect internal agency procedures alone
•Numbers/percentages required by statute vs. rules agency discretionary rules
•Rules for which weighing costs and benefits is statutorily prohibited
•Detail on rules reviewed by the OMB, and action taken