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White House Bets on Regulatory Reform to Kickstart Job Growth

This afternoon President Trump signed a new executive order titled “Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda” with the goal of spurring economic growth and job creation by streamlining federal rules and reducing their overall burden. The order calls for every federal agency to appoint a Regulatory Reform Officer, who will function as a sort of counter-bureaucratic ombudsman. The task forces that the Regulatory Reform Officers will lead will identify and target for elimination regulations that:

  • Eliminate jobs, or inhibit job creation
  • Are outdated, unnecessary, or ineffective
  • Impose costs that exceed benefits
  • Create a serious inconsistency or otherwise interfere with regulatory reform initiatives and policies

This matches up pretty well with recommendations my colleague Wayne Crews has been making for years – specifically his proposal to counter the overwhelming institutional bias in government agencies towards writing ever more rules by creating what he calls a “Federal Office of No”:

…economists at agencies whose job it is to assess benefits and costs of regulations and prepare Regulatory Impact Analyses could be increased by moving economics divisions or personnel out of less active agencies. The president or the head of OIRA could give these economists “Bureau of No” marching orders, to look for reasons not to regulate, to challenge conventional RIAs that somehow always find net benefits rather than net costs, and to underscore the role of competitive discipline and other factors that “regulate” economic efficiency and health and safety better than Washington agencies do. This emphasis would increase the scrutiny afforded to regulations.

Also true to the announced intent of today’s executive order, Wayne has emphasized that the best economic stimulus package is the money that government doesn’t spend:

A better economic recovery agenda is to create the conditions for the market to actually do what the government claims it can do. It would entail an ongoing program, not of “investing” or stimulating or intervening, but of liberalizing the wealth-creating energies of citizens and the private institutions.

Such an agenda would abolish agencies that have contributed to the mess we are in and downsize others, freeze spending, place a moratorium on new regulations, loosen existing rules, reduce capital gains taxes, and return the financial sector to the private market in such a way that the moral hazard created by regulatory guarantees never again occurs.

Today’s White House action also tasks the Regulatory Reform Officers with enforcing existing executive orders on reviewing and evaluating the federal regulatory burden, including Trump’s own recent “one-in, two-out” order from January 30th. In a similar vein, Wayne advised then-candidates in the presidential race last year to rediscover the wisdom of Ronald Reagan’s Executive Order 12291:

President Reagan and his appointees were committed to lightening the burden of federal regulation, and one important tool at their disposal was Executive Order 12291. Issued on February 17, 1981, Reagan’s order required agencies to ensure that the benefits to society of all new and existing regulations outweighed their societal costs, and to choose regulatory approaches that would impose the least net cost on society, unless such benefit-cost assessments were prohibited by statute.

Wayne also reiterated the value of strengthening regulatory oversight by executive order in his recent Web Memo, First Steps for the Trump Administration: Rein in the Regulatory State.