A Thought on Regulations

The Heritage Foundation has an interesting article about the costs of President Obama’s regulations.  I want to talk briefly about one aspect of that article, and to disagree a bit with the Foundation.

One of the outcomes of the Obama explosion of regulations is a concomitant explosion in red tape, and the Foundation suggests a solution to this.  The article at the above link cites an article by  James Gattuso and Diane Katz as containing the proper response: additional congressional oversight, claiming that such a thing is necessary to protect us and our economy from overregulation.  Moreover, Congress should require congressional approval of “new major rules promulgated by agencies, establish a congressional office of regulatory analysis, and establish a sunset date for federal regulations in order to ensure that substantive review of existing regulations continually occurs.”

Gattuso and Katz have it partially right.  There is no need for additional bureaucracy, Congressional or otherwise, to “oversee” us or our government.  That’s how we got Obamacare and Dodd-Frank and how we got the EPA foisted onto us.  The oversight is our duty as citizens, and we’ve been derelict in carrying out that duty.  It’s on us finally to get off our duffs and do our job.

There’s also no need for a “congressional office of regulatory analysis.”  That’s just more red tape waiting to happen.  If we want to know what a proposed regulation might cost, we already have an Office of Management and Budget in the Executive branch and a Congressional Budget Office in the Legislative branch to give us (perhaps conflicting) estimates.  These estimates then can help inform Congressional debate—see below.

The other two ideas are quite sound.  Every new rule proposed should be subject—individually, not in groups—to Congressional debate and Congressional approval, or rejection.  Moreover, every rule approved should be sunsetted: it should automatically expire after five years (to minimize the impact of political cycles).  If renewal is desired, then see above for proposed rules.

Some will object that this will greatly slow down the pace of rule-making, or that it interferes with Executive branch powers.  As to the first, what’s the downside of that slower pace?  As to the second, there is no such Executive branch power.  Executive regulatory rule-making authority is nothing more than a Congressional delegation of a limited capacity to the Executive branch, and that delegation can be withdrawn quite easily.

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