A Congressional Regulatory Report Card Can Begin to Address Biden’s New Attempts to Downplay Regulatory Costs

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The Federal Register website, portals like Regulations.gov and other online databases make it far easier than in pre-Internet times to acquire information on the assortment of federal rules affecting us, and to learn about regulatory trends.

We cannot learn much about costs of the regulatory regime, though. The executive orders and laws meant to supervise, disclose and streamline the “hidden tax” of regulation were experiencing benign and malign neglect even before Joe Biden.

Now, with the Biden administration’s new “Modernizing Regulatory Review” executive order (E.O. 14,094) and its proposed update of guidance on regulatory analysis (“Circular A-4,” as it’s known in bureau-speak), most of the regulatory “Costberg” will not only be neglected, but denied altogether.

Biden is engaged in unrestrained pursuit of aggressive ESG-style and other “net benefits” as the progressive left sees them — on the likes of climate, interference in free-market competiton“equity” and redistribution, digital currency and plenty more. Sometimes, these are combined: we’ve just learned of a proposed 30 percent climate tax on cryptocurrency mining.

Otherwise an unhealthy and anti-liberty approach to the preparation of cost-benefit analyses will become a fixture in the U.S., and elevate federal government regulatory lordship generally. (For a taste of some of the costs a revamped C-4 would systematically neglect, expand the image of a “One-Pager on Unmeasured Costs of the Administrative State and Regulation” below; even the current regime neglects most costs of government intervention).

On the bright side, the 118th Congress has already introduced a slate of worthwhile regulatory reform bills; that’s even knowing Biden would likely veto every single one of them.

After all, as Rep. Bob Good of Virgina pointed out at a Hill forum hosted by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (my organization), demonstration votes in the House are worthwhile.

Alongside, plenty more can be done with or without legislation to make information on the regulatory state’s scope and costs more complete, accessible, relevant and user friendly. Both parties claim to value transparency and disclosure, so the low-hanging fruit — even if the progressives reject everything else with respect to regulatory streamlining, deregulation, and simply keeping their nose out of others’ business — ought to be a “Regulatory Transparency Report Card” (let’s call it).

Relevant regulatory data should be compiled and summarized for the public both to inform a new legislative phase of regulatory streamlining and liberalization, and to monitor results and progress when a program of federal downsizing is finally put into effect.

Even if Democrats won’t get on board, the GOP can begin the process by having the Congressional Budget Office, the Government Accountability Office, one or more committees, or even a lonesome congressional or senate office compile versions of report cards. Biden and Obama, after all, enjoyed doing things unilaterally, from immigration policy to eviction moratoria to student loan forgiveness (not an endorsement).

When eventually formalized, suggested components of such a Regulatory Transparency Report Card (some appear below) could be officially summarized in charts in the federal budget, the Unified Agenda of federal regulatory actions, the Economic Report of the President, on regulations.gov, presented within a resurrection of the defunct Regulatory Program of the U.S. Government (perhaps more on that later), or elsewhere.

In preparation, there are a few things to keep in mind. One cannot look at the daily Federal Register and get a sense of rules that are being cut (well, OK, probably none are) nor of which agencies are adding the most rules, nor of which of a flow of rules might be reducing burdens rather than expanding them. Such gaps remind us that even mere rule-counts were non-existent prior to 1976.

In addition to revealing burdens, impacts, and trends, the primary contribution of a report card approach is to help reveal what we do not know about the regulatory state—such as, for example, the percentage of rules for which their issuing agencies failed to quantify either their costs or benefits. The project needs to be ambitious enough to sweep aside in its entirely the exercise-in-obscuity that is Circular A-4.

Read the full article on Forbes.