Talking Points on Biden’s “Whole-of-Government” Regulatory Escalations

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Among much else, the 2022 edition of Ten Thousand Commandments presents a $2 trillion undercount of regulatory costs and showcases the march of rulemaking and Federal Register page counts back to pre-Trump levels.

Before Biden took office, my “Bookend” edition for the Trump administration was anchored in a lengthy survey of the approaches Trump took to fulfill promises to streamline red tape and “drain the swamp.” And, yes, it also explored Trump’s own discordant moves undermining those worthy goals, like trade barriers, content regulation and antitrust enthusiasms.  

There has been a seismic shift back to top-down control. The 2022 edition of Ten Thousand Commandments showcases Biden’s return to an activist government that goes beyond regulatory business as usual to business unusual, including moves toward expansions of economic and social controls with a fervor that leaps ahead of the Obama “pen and phone.”

The bulleted list below sums up some of the re-regulatory intervention underway on numerous fronts. These are only highlights, so check out the report for more detail. 

Outlining Biden’s Expansions of Economic and Social Controls over Society:

  • Repudiation of the Trump regulatory streamlining agenda. Biden’s “Modernization” of regulatory procedures has undermined not only Trump but also pre-existing regulatory oversight norms. The mission of the lone White House body overseeing and “auditing” the regulatory state is directed instead toward pursuit of regulatory “benefits” as progressives see them.
  • Setbacks to regulatory transparency and degradation of public disclosures of regulation  and guidance documents. On a bright note, the gains from Trump guidance document portals have not yet been fully erased, so policy makers should monitor this closely and prevent further erosion.
  • “Whole-of-Government” Equity agenda. Biden has enlisted the Administrative State apparatus via spending, hiring, contracting, procurement, regulation, and sub-regulatory guidance to advance an amorphous “equity” characterized by differential treatment under law based on group membership.
  •  “Whole-of-Government” climate action. Despite explicit fusing with the Biden “Equity” agenda, these cross-agency climate actions undermine citizens’ basic access to energy, compounding the damage of other artificial shortages inflicted on the public.
  • “Ccompetition policy” in the form of resurgent antitrust enforcement. Antitrust regulation, the costs of which are never tabulated, shrinks the scope of private competitive enterprise in favor of federal steering of the economic activities of private firms, from agriculture to high tech, while entrenching federal monopoly power over all of the economy in the name of combatting illusory private monopoly. Decades of interventions contributed to economic weakness in supply chains during Covid. The Biden administration’s new antitrust activism will weaken the economy’s posture in the face of future crises;
  • Industrial policy. Biden’s economic intervention extends to sweeping, distortionary large-scale infrastructure spending and subsidies for questionable projects with broad regulatory effect that distort competition-driven private enterprise in areas from routine infrastructure to frontier sectors like next-generation networks of vehicle charging stations, artificial intelligence and basic science investment. Unfortunately, there has been a great deal of bipartisan support for these efforts.
  • Mandates and censorship. Alongside business mandates is an exploitation of a pandemic to impose health mandates and strictures that cost business and the public dearly. Compounding the latter is the Biden White House’s proclivity for pressuring private social media platforms to suppress dissent in a way that can easily transition to tamp down on climate crisis “denial” and other forms of mass objection to federal government narratives on policy.  
  • Escalation of surveillance. This expands a deeper underlying war on anonymity that enables future regulation of the public from speech to access to financial services.

See the Ten Thousand Commandments report for more detail. We’ll be watching in the coming months for similar pursuits in the form of new rules and sub-regulatory dark matter.