Slice the regulatory turkey this Thanksgiving

Photo Credit: Getty

The turkeys Liberty and Bell just received a Thanksgiving pardon from Joe Biden.

The official presentation of a turkey for a presidential pardon and rescue from the Thanksgiving table is a decades-old ritual, brought to us now by the National Turkey Federation and the American Egg Board. The lucky birds sometimes even get a stay at the Willard Hotel.

Unofficially, poultry presentations go back to the Lincoln and Grant administrations; but those less-fortunate gobblers got dressed, boxed and eaten.

A particularly noxious Washington “turkey” these days is a federal government putting on excess pounds and throwing that weigh around in newfangled regulatory interventions in infrastructure, technology, climate, finance and more. Regulatory costs increasing under the Biden administration are “gobbling” up free enterprise.

Worse, a temporary “pardon” from regulatory overreach the public enjoyed during a brief Trump-era regulatory rollback effort has been revoked by Biden.

Washington issues more than 3,000 rules issued annually. As of today, 2,673 rules have been issued. Economic liberties appear more vulnerable to the axe than turkeys this holiday season, as federal agencies under Biden seemingly enjoy even more freedom to roam than even Liberty and Bell.

The prominence of the Regulatory Turkey seems particularly worrisome with respect to the number of rules that agencies or the White House declare to be “significant.” This subset shows signs of returning to Obama and Bush heights of several hundred per year.

As of today, there have been 246 significant final rules issued in 2023, with a month to go; there had been 387 in 2021. By contrast, the highest under Trump during any calendar year was 214, and the lowest 6, and a healthy serving of these each Trump year were deemed “deregulatory.”

Tellingly, in Biden’s pipeline of proposed but not-yet-final rules, 315 inbound rules are deemed “significant.”

Soon we’ll learn more of the administration’s regulatory priorities when the fall 2023 edition of the so-called Unified Agenda of federal regulatory actions appears. In it, Biden’s agencies will present plans and priorities. Recent editions have reflected an ambitious progressive tilt, one eager to go around Congress to, as they say, get things done.

One cause for cheer is the fact that proposals for reforming the regulatory state—clipping the turkey’s wings, so to speak—do have longstanding bipartisan pedigree if not current engagement or enthusiasm.

Ongoing budget negotiations now vexing Washington could be an opportunity to incorporate regulatory reforms into the necessary compromises and dealmaking that recognizes that—like Liberty and Bell—overspending and overregulation are birds of a feather. But these latter birds do not deserve the same pardon—the public does.

The parties are divided on spending, but there is lower-hanging fruit that they might agree upon. Call these fixing for the Thanksgiving table, including regulatory cost budgeting, a one-in-one-out tradeoff for new rules, and a bipartisan regulatory reduction commission.

How realistic is that? The Biden administration rules are starting to mount for small businesses and for state and local government in a way that few realize. Legislators pay attention when local officials and businesspeople from back home start clucking.

Ben Franklin had wanted the turkey to be our National Bird instead of the eagle. Yet surely none of the Framers expected over-regulation to become our National Burden. Nor should we want that today. The regulatory turkey needs not a pardon but the axe in 2024.