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The new deregulation?

March 30, 2011

Maybe I’ve been obsessing about regulations for too long (I was reminded recently that long before law school entered my mind, I did an undergraduate history paper on regulatory rollback in the Reagan administration), but I continue to be surprised that Republicans think that throwing cost-benefit analysis at an already-regulated policy problem counts as “deregulation.”

Anyways, we study history because history repeats itself: earlier this month, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced the “Clearing Unnecessary Regulatory Burdens Act” (S. 602). RegBlog has a great, informative rundown on the bill. The “CURB Act” attempts to work some regulatory reform by imposing on agencies additional procedural requirements when issuing guidances. Collins has apparently also introduced this as an amendment to the currently-debated small business bill (the very one that is loaded down with riders seeking to spell out the death of the Clean Air Act).

I don’t know about you, but that sounds like creating more bureaucratic red tape. How’s a smaller government supposed to come out of this? The whole Republican attack on agency guidance just seems ill-informed. Are they just completely unaware of the entire body of administrative law?

What’s more, the political rhetoric against regulation is (unsurprisingly) willfully ahistorical and context-free. Republicans might like you to believe that agencies are running amok, rolling out regulations left and right without a care in the world, and that only some sober cost-benefit analysis will save our economy. But in fact, agencies already conduct a lot of thorough economic impact analyses at various levels in the rulemaking process. As Regblog points out, Collins’ bill basically codifies Executive Order 12866 – a Presidential directive that requires agencies to conduct CBAs on all major proposed regulations. EO 12866, of course, was issued by Clinton, and reaffirmed in a new order by Obama – both Democrats.

I can see how Republicans can score political points on this kind of demagoguery, but that won’t stop me from harping on the GOP’s freedom from ideology or consistency on the role of government and its constituent branches.

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