NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Instant Reform: Measure the Hidden Tax of Regulation

November 15, 2010

If Congress doesn't grapple with the regulatory state, this economy can't regain footing, says Clyde Wayne Crews, vice president for policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

The lowest-hanging fruit is for Congress to immediately make regulatory trends as transparent as possible by requiring that summary regulatory data be published in the annual federal budget, the Economic Report of the President or some other accessible venue.

  • Until 1993, information such as numbers of proposed and final rules and major and minor rules was collected and published in an annual Regulatory Program of the United States Government (in a lengthy appendix titled "Annual Report on Executive Order 12291").
  • The report specified what actions the Office of Management and Budget took on numbers of proposed and final rules it reviewed, along with 10-year historical data, providing detail on specific regulations that were chucked back to agencies for reconsideration, revision, even withdrawal as ill-advised.
  • The report also featured comparisons of the most active rule-producing agencies, and provided analysis of numbers of pages and types of rule documents in the Federal Register.
  • The Regulatory Program was abandoned when the Clinton administration replaced EO 12291 with an order that returned rulemaking primacy to the agencies.

The material featured in the former Regulatory Program should be revived immediately as a first step in a larger annual Regulatory Report Card.  Portraying the off-budget scope of government in terms of trends in numbers of rules at the agencies is a prerequisite for slashing the actual regulatory costs that agencies refuse to acknowledge, says Crews.

Source: Clyde Wayne Crews, "Instant Reform: Measure the Hidden Tax of Regulation," Forbes, November 11, 2010.

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