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White House Stalling Regulation Report Until after Election?

Today, Monday, October 17th, marks the latest that the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has ever been with its annual draft Report to Congress on the Benefits and Costs of Federal Regulations.

This is the only official public report we have that (partially) discloses overall annual costs and benefits of federal regulations. When will it appear?

Last year’s 2015 draft, appearing on October 16, was the latest the annual document has ever been—until today—as the chart below shows. (The Final 2015 report appeared March 10, 2016.)   

Why delay this, again? I’ve been surprised at Congress’s stance too, actually; in a July oversight hearing, no member asked about the report, or criticized its shortcomings—most glaringly, the declaration of net-benefits of the entire regulatory enterprise on the basis of a handful of rules. (Assessing the Obama Years: OIRA and Regulatory Impacts on Jobs, Wages and Economic Recovery. I testified at the hearing; here are oral and written comments.)   

But now we’re over halfway through October. Is the report so scary they’re waiting for Halloween?

Or, the election, perhaps?

The “most transparent administration in history” is transparent all right, in an unqualified disregard for disclosures of the regulatory burden. The last formal Information Collection Budget of the United States Government, cataloging paperwork burdens, is similarly late but even more so, last appearing over two years ago.

The chart nearby shows the month (and day of the month if available) during which the Draft Report on regulatory costs and benefits has appeared since 2002.

The Draft report is MIA as of October 17, 2016.

 

Jan

Feb

March

April

May

June

July

Aug

Sept

Oct

2002

 

 

Mar 28

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2003

 

Feb 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2004

 

Feb

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2005

 

 

Mar 9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2006

 

 

 

April

 

 

 

 

 

 

2007

 

 

Mar 9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2008

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sept 15

 

2009

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sept 21

 

2010

 

 

 

Apr 13

 

 

 

 

 

 

2011

 

 

March

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2012

 

 

March

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2013

 

 

 

April

 

 

 

 

 

 

2014

 

 

 

 

May

 

 

 

 

 

2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

Oct 16

 

2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MIA

The report appeared most frequently in March, once upon a time. But that was seven months ago.

Note the two September outliers in the chart. The first was President George W. Bush’s last year of 2008; the second Obama’s first year of 2009.

But, in a going-concern administration rather than during transitions between opposing political parties occupying the White House, the Report to Congress on regulatory costs and benefits had never been as late as last year. This transitional year takes things to a new level.

New Congressional Budget Office figures show record tax collections and a re-ballooning deficit. Like untethered spending, Congress and the administration ignore regulation at our economic and personal peril.

So it’s good that concerned parties are given a chance to comment on the Draft report before a final report is issued a few months afterward.

But one can’t comment on what doesn’t exist; and this time, a new administration will have been elected by the time comments ever get collected by the OMB.

The final 2015 Report we got March 10 of this year covers rules up to September 30, 2014.

What this means is that, at the moment, we only have official word on regulations from the White House for a period that ended nearly two years ago, before the 114th Congress was even elected; and now, we’re about to elect a new Congress to walk into an even greater unknown.  

The new annual report, if it appears, will present a ten-year lookback covering October 1, 2005 to September 30 2015, as well as detail on the most recent fiscal year ending September 30, 2015. But that period ended over a year ago.

It isn’t unreasonable for the public and Congress to see timely reports on regulatory priorities and costs. Along with the phantom Information Collection Budget, The Obama administration’s twice-annual Unified Agenda regulatory planning document has been regularly late as well. In the Spring of 2012, OMB didn’t even bother issuing the Unified Agenda at all.

The annual Reports to Congress may obscure more than they reveal about the scope of the regulatory state, since fewer than 20 out of thousands of rules receive a cost-benefit analysis, which makes the government’s sweeping net-benefit claims somewhat grotesque.

Nevertheless, until Congress addresses the regulatory enterprise, these reports are about all we have.