What's New from the GW Regulatory Studies Center

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New Commentaries from the George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center

Research

Recent working papers and published articles from Center scholars
Bruce Yandle

Bootleggers & Baptists: The Experience of Another Regulatory Economist

November 27, 2018

By Susan E. Dudley
Bruce Yandle conceived the theory of Bootleggers and Baptists after working in government as a young economist in the late 1970s and 1980s. Forty years later, his insights regarding the forces that converge to support government intervention continue to explain many regulatory observations. Applying the theory to her own experience, Dudley finds that while the B&B phenomenon is universal, the nature of winning Baptist arguments can vary depending on administration, and that regulatory institutions can reinforce or counteract B&B pressures.

HHS Deregulatory Actions (FY 2018)

Spotlight: HHS Entries in OIRA’s Latest Regulatory Reform Report

November 26, 2018

By Bridget C.E. Dooling
OIRA recently issued a progress report on EO 13771, the two-for-one initiative, with a present value estimate of $23.4 billion in savings due to actions taken in FY 2018. More than half of these savings came from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS). This Regulatory Insight takes a deep dive into the HHS figures and finds significant Medicare paperwork savings, but that the other deregulatory initiatives fall short of providing the kind of regulatory relief that President Trump has promised.

National Telecommunications & Information Administration logo

Public Interest Comment: NTIA's Approach to Consumer Privacy

November 12, 2018

By Daniel R. Pérez
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration issued a request for public comments on developing the administration's approach to consumer privacy. This public interest comment provides an overview of the agency's proposed approach to guide federal policymaking, and provides three core recommendations (1) Privacy regulation should be based on consumers' value, (2) the benefits of regulation should exceed social costs, and (3) future research should be focused on improving benefit-cost analysis of privacy regulations.

EPA logo

Public Interest Comment: EPA's Proposed “Affordable Clean Energy” (ACE) Rule

October 31, 2018

By Brian F. Mannix
The proposed “Affordable Clean Energy” (ACE) rule rests on a stronger legal foundation and a sounder economic analysis than the stayed Clean Power Plan (CPP). In particular, the choice of a “best system of emissions reduction” (BSER) based on heat-rate efficiency, a measure of CO2 intensity, is much more consistent with the Clean Air Act than was the CPP’s statewide budget approach, as is the decision to use domestic benefits to justify the rule. The proposed reforms to section 111(d) procedures and to the New Source Review criteria are both important and stand on their own right.

Photo of Julian Morris

Public Interest Comment: SAFE Vehicles Rule

October 25, 2018

By Julian Morris
Executive Director of the International Center for Law & Economics and a Senior Fellow at the Reason Foundation - provides insights on the effects of the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient Rule and the preliminary regulatory impact analysis thoroughly completed by the EPA and NHTSA. This public interest comment discusses the likely effects of the rule on vehicle fuel economy, fuel consumption, the cost of new and used vehicles, safety, and the environment. The author's findings suggest that the new rule will save billions of dollars in economic costs, potentially decrease traffic fatalities, and is unlikely to have a significant negative effect on the environment.

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Public Interest Comment: IRS's Proposed Rule on SALT Credits

October 12, 2018

By Jerry Ellig
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has proposed a regulation that would prevent all individual taxpayers from claiming a federal charitable deduction if the taxpayer received a state tax credit equivalent to more than 15 percent of the donation. This comment explains why the proposed regulation is much broader than necessary to address the real problem the IRS seeks to solve: state tax credit programs designed explicitly to aid taxpayers in avoiding the cap on deductibility of state and local taxes.

Photo of Chris Carrigan and Mark Febrizio

OMB's Reform Plan and the Tradeoffs of Government Reorganization

October 09, 2018

By Christopher Carrigan & Mark Febrizio
In June, OMB published an organizational reform plan, offering more than 80 recommendations that detail government-wide and agency-specific changes. Although the plan’s goal to make government operations more efficient is a noble one, research and experience demonstrates that designing agency operations involves sometimes unavoidable tradeoffs. Streamlining operations can produce real benefits, but these may come at the expense of impeding an agency’s ability to formulate clear objectives and weakening measures in place to ensure services are delivered correctly. Thus, entering into any restructuring with a complete understanding of its ramifications is critical to realizing its objectives and promoting its durability.

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Public Interest Comment: Dept. of Education's Student Assistance & Loan Programs

September 07, 2018

By: Daniel R. Pérez
This comment argues that the Dept. of Education's proposal to rescind its 2016 change to the definition of misrepresentation and to change its 2016 approach making a priori assumptions about the quality of non-profit and for-profit schools better complies with existing regulatory requirements. The Department should retain borrowers’ ability to file affirmative claims, collect additional data to inform future rulemaking, and more thoroughly consider the net impact of its proposed rules on processing borrower claims on a case-by-case basis.

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Public Interest Comment: Council on Environmental Quality - Implementing NEPA

August 20, 2018

By: Mark Febrizio
This comment makes recommendations for how the Council on Environmental Quality could improve its data collection methods, how to use those data to enhance retrospective review of National Environmental Policy Act regulations and their effect on industry and the environment, and where to increase transparency in its decision-making process.

EPA Logo

Public Interest Comment: Increasing Transparency in Considering Costs and Benefits in the Rulemaking Process

August 14, 2018

By: Brian F. Mannix
In this comment, Mannix explores the reasons why the Environmental Protection Agency might choose to conduct a rulemaking on the general topic of how it considers benefits and costs, reviews some of the legal considerations that should be brought to bear on that effort, and recommends that the administration consider encouraging this type of activity in other agencies.

Transparency

Public Interest Comment: EPA's Benefit-Cost Analysis in the Rulemaking Process

August 13, 2018

By: Joseph J. Cordes
In this comment, Cordes discusses the value-added of using benefit-cost analysis in the regulatory process, the extent to which guidance is presently available on the application of benefit-cost analysis to regulatory analysis, the specific issue of which stakeholders should receive standing in benefit-cost analysis, and the inclusion of indirect effects, also referred to as co-benefits, in benefit-cost calculations.

Supreme Court Economic Review

Benefit-Cost Analysis as a Check on Administrative Discretion

August 06, 2018

By Brian F. Mannix
Benefit-cost analysis (BCA) continues to be the principal tool used by American presidents to guide the discretionary decisions of regulatory agencies under their supervision, and increasingly it is viewed by the courts as an important consideration for agencies to take into account in justifying their regulatory decisions. This paper argues that BCA is properly viewed, not simply as a technocratic planning tool, but as a solution to a principal-agent problem. Specifically, it is intended to test whether an agency can demonstrate that it is acting in the public interest. Viewed in this light, some common analytical practices used by regulatory agencies become questionable. A BCA should not, for example, use an assumption that consumers are irrational to support a claim that coercive regulation is making them better off. Consumer sovereignty is axiomatic in BCA, and an agency that uses BCA to justify its actions must accept individuals’ judgments about their own welfare.

Supreme Court Economic Review

Improving Regulatory Science: A Case Study of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards

August 02, 2018

By Susan E. Dudley & Marcus Peacock
This paper explores the motivations and institutional incentives of participants involved in the development of regulation aimed at reducing health risks, with a goal of understanding and identifying solutions to what the Bipartisan Policy Center has characterized as “a tendency to frame regulatory issues as debates solely about science, regardless of the actual subject in dispute, [that] is at the root of the stalemate and acrimony all too present in the regulatory system today.” We focus our analysis with a case study of the procedures for developing National Ambient Air Quality Standards under the Clean Air Act, and attempt to identify procedural approaches that bring greater diversity (in data, expertise, experience, and accountability) into the decision process.

First 18 months chart

Trump Administration Picks up the Regulatory Pace in its Second Year

August 01, 2018

By Bridget C.E. Dooling
With the first 18 months of the Trump Administration complete, we can check in on his regulatory activity to date. This new analysis shows that Trump's regulatory activity is 70% lower than it was at the same point in the Obama Administration; a striking result for an administration that has made regulatory reform a signature issue.

benefit cost analysis

Public Interest Comment: Increasing Consistency and Transparency in EPA's Benefit Cost Analysis

July 17, 2018

By Susan E. Dudley
In this comment, Dudley supports EPA’s efforts to improve the transparency and consistency of the analysis supporting its significant regulations and, referring to the Consumer’s Guide to Regulatory Impact Analysis, reviews ten tips for achieving this objective. She encourages EPA, as a first step, to review all its statutory authority and, to the maximum extent possible, interpret its statutory standards through a lens of standard benefit-cost analysis principles.