Congress Should Start Quantifying Federal Regulation

Washington, D.C., October 4, 2011—Lawmakers in the nation’s capital seem to be desperate to secure a big fix for the broken American economy. But as Members of Congress hem and haw about cutting spending—and President Obama pushes for raising taxes—few people are talking about the largest impediment to true economic recovery: the staggering cost of federal regulations.

In a new Issue Analysis released today by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), “The Other National Debt Crisis: How and Why Congress Must Quantify Federal Regulation,” CEI Vice President for Policy Wayne Crews explains why Congress should measure the crippling compliance costs of federal regulations. Crews argues that the federal government must start holding itself truly accountable for the costs it is forcing on struggling American businesses if the nation is to pull itself out of its current economic slump.

The Issue Analysis outlines several methods for accurate cost reviews of major legislation and agency rules, such as

• Reviving and expanding the annual Regulatory Program of the United States Government, which was discontinued in 1993; 

• Issuing an annual Regulatory Report Card on major federal agencies;

• Establishing an Office of Regulatory Analysis similar to the one proposed by Rep. Don Young (R-AK); and

• Establishing a Regulatory Reduction Commission to annually assemble packages of regulations to eliminate via an up-or-down vote.

Crews also examines Congressional reform proposals such as the REINS Act, sponsored by Rep. Geoff Davis (R-KY) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), which would require Congress to vote on economically significant regulations before they go into effect.

Crews writes, “Ultimately, voters need the ability to hold Congress directly accountable for regulations by requiring congressional approval of new rules. Thus, legislation that will lead to costly agency rules regulating, say, lamp ballast energy efficiency may or may not make sense to a congressman who may have to vote directly to approve the accompanying costs.

“As Congress becomes more answerable for regulation, it will face greater incentives to ensure that benefits exceed costs as determined by independent analysis, rather than by agencies’ own estimates. Greater ongoing oversight might dampen the tendency to overregulate in the future, thus creating pressure for a ‘regulatory ceiling’ to parallel the fiscal debt ceiling. Regulation does not control itself, and agencies will not apply the brakes.We have to do it, through our elected representatives.”

>> Read Wayne Crews’ full Issue Analysis: “The Other National Debt Crisis: How and Why Congress Must Quantify Federal Regulation.”