Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Reducing the Increase in the Thing Isn't Reducing the Thing, Regulation Edition

You're familiar with the usual legerdemain:

One party brags that it's cutting spending on X.

The other party screams about the draconian cuts to X.

The first party then "defends" itself by admitting that it's not really cutting spending on X, just cutting previously projected future increases in spending on X.

I suspected that the same would be the case with Donald Trump's executive order on regulatory measures:

Unless prohibited by law, whenever an executive department or agency (agency) publicly proposes for notice and comment or otherwise promulgates a new regulation, it shall identify at least two existing regulations to be repealed.

Emphases mine. The order doesn't require actual repeal of two regulations for each new regulation. It merely requires regulatory agencies to point to two regulations and say "OK, those" any time a new regulation is added. What happens after that is anyone's guess, and the best guess is that most of "those" will quickly be forgotten about and remain in place.

A piece by Craig Eyermann today at the Independent Institute, which discusses "President Trump’s initiative to reduce the burden of federal regulations on Americans," includes this chart from the Mercatus Center:

That federal regulatory burden, at least along the metrics measured by Mercatus, continued to rise after he issued the order, and is only just now back down to about where it was when he was inaugurated.

It will be interesting to see if the burden continues to decrease to pre-Trump levels, or if we'll end up with bragging about "a reduction of the increase we would otherwise have seen" when it's all said and done. If I had to bet, I'd bet on the latter outcome.

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