By Brian Mannix
President Trump’s Executive Order 13771, "Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs," has caused some confusion among the analysts, inside and outside federal agencies, who forecast the economic effects of regulations. Which effects should count as costs and which as benefits? It sounds like it should be an easy question, but it is not. In this Regulatory Insight, Brian Mannix examines some of the obstacles.
By Susan E. Dudley
Governments generally conduct rigorous analysis of regulations aimed at reducing chemical risk before they are issued; however, due to both methodological challenges and poor incentives, these regulations are often not evaluated with the same care once they are in place. In this paper prepared for the OECD, Dudley explores practices for more consistent and robust evaluation of regulatory outcomes and concludes that a systems approach to understanding regulatory efficacy would be valuable not only for understanding the effect of past actions, but for improving future decisions and outcomes.
By Susan E. Dudley
As President Trump prepares to announce his nominee to head the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), this Regulatory Insight provides an inside look at the functions of this small but powerful office, its origins and procedures, and why, when it comes to government policy, the job of OIRA administrator is the most important job in Washington you may never have heard of.
By Susan Dudley, Richard Belzer, Glenn Blomquist, Timothy Brennan, Christopher Carrigan, Joseph Cordes, Louis A. Cox, Arthur Fraas, John Graham, George Gray, James Hammitt, Kerry Krutilla, Peter Linquiti, Randall Lutter, Brian Mannix, Stuart Shapiro, Anne Smith, W. Kip Viscusi & Richard Zerbe
This guide is designed for policymakers and others who want to be intelligent consumers of regulatory impact analysis, help them interpret what they read and ask appropriate questions.
By Sofie E. Miller in the Federalist Society Review, Volume 18
“Midnight” regulations are those issued after the November presidential election but before Inauguration Day as the outgoing administration attempts to finalize its regulatory policy priorities with a surge of rulemaking activity. Scholars have theorized that midnight rules are problematic because they short-circuit important procedural safeguards that ensure high-quality regulatory outcomes, like rigorous analysis, internal and external review, and public input in the rulemaking process. Stepping beyond theory, recent examples—such as the Department of Energy’s energy efficiency standards for clothes washers—illustrate that midnight rules impose real burdens.
President-elect Trump has promised to “reform the entire regulatory code to ensure that we keep jobs and wealth in America.” To that end, scholars at the George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center offer a list of 10 reforms to regulatory processes that could be accomplished through executive action. While other potential reforms could be achieved through the courts or by working with congress, these reforms focus on actions that are within the purview of the executive branch.
By Marcus Peacock
President-elect Trump endorsed “a requirement that for every new federal regulation, two existing regulations need to be eliminated” or what could be called a “two-for-one” requirement. This working paper addresses how such a process might work including its scope; what to measure; additional workload; and whether it outlasts a Trump administration.
Congress enacted the Congressional Review Act (CRA) on March 29, 1996 as part of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) in an effort to increase its oversight of federal agency rulemaking. The CRA includes several parliamentary mechanisms that enable Congress to disapprove a final rule issued by a federal agency.
Utilizing Behavioral Insights (without Romance): An Inquiry into the Choice Architecture of Public Decision-Making
By Adam C. Smith
To justify regulations that reduce consumer choice, policymakers are increasingly relying on observations from behavioral economics suggesting that people don’t always make rational decisions. However, behavioral economists generally neglect a complementary examination of public decision-makers. Through a public choice lens, Smith compares two public agencies influenced by behavioral economics, the U.S. CFPB and U.K Behavioral Insights Team, and finds that their different institutional structures lead to divergent policy outcomes. He concludes that for policies to be welfare-improving, they must be based on an understanding of public choice architecture as well as private choice architecture.
By Marcus Peacock
Although spending on U.S. regulatory programs has doubled in the last 20 years, that trend is unlikely to last. How these programs manage budget cuts will determine whether downsizing harms or helps regulatory performance. Leaders of regulatory agencies must avoid satisfying tighter budgets with temporary “mindless austerity” measures that anger workers. Instead managers should use scarcity to find, with workers, “frugal innovations” that can significantly and permanently improve program value. In this working paper, Peacock examines how agencies can get budget cuts to help rather than harm.
By Marcus Peacock
What can regulatory reformers learn from past government-wide reform efforts? Two previous Regulatory Insights describe eight major U.S. government initiatives that failed to improve accountability. This Insight identifies a lack of leadership and unfaithful execution by agency personnel as barriers to success. These problems could be addressed by: (1) codification of reform; (2) adopting modest reform proposals (incrementalism); (3) creating third parties to implement/enforce reform; and (4) establishing competition between regulatory programs such as through a regulatory budget.
Evaluation at EPA: Determinants of the Environmental Protection Agency's Capacity to Supply Program Evaluation
By Nick Hart
Since EPA’s inception, it has emphasized the use of prospective policy analysis tools to inform environmental decisions, including cost-benefit analysis and risk assessment. However, EPA and others rarely evaluate these same environmental policies after implementation, to inform future policy development or to modify existing policies. Nicholas Hart, PhD recently completed his dissertation in GW’s Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration focusing on the processes and determinants that affect evaluation supply at EPA. Hart identifies ten key factors that constituted both barriers to and facilitators of evaluation. His policy brief summarizes these factors and his conclusions.
by Arthur G. Fraas and Randall Lutter in the Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis
Government mandates to disclose information are a standard response to problems of asymmetric information. Fraas and Lutter examine recent major U.S. regulations issued between 2008 and 2013 to identify disclosure mandates and look for quantitative assessments of their effectiveness in improving comprehension. The authors find that although mandated disclosures underpin a number of major federal regulatory initiatives, agencies infrequently issue such mandates based on scientifically valid, controlled studies of the improvements in comprehension from such disclosure and recommend reforms to improve federally mandated information disclosure.
Structure vs. Process: Examining the Interaction between Bureaucratic Organization and Analytical Requirements
By Stuart Shapiro
Attempts by politicians to control bureaucratic decisions include both structural organization and procedural rules. But how do these interact? This article examines the relationship between bureaucratic structure and the requirement that agencies conduct an analysis of their decisions prior to their issuance in the context of two types of analysis: cost-benefit analysis and environmental impact assessment. The research finds that conduct of analysis is affected by where analysts are placed in agencies. In particular independence of analysts has a tradeoff. Despite this, analysts expressed a clear preference for independence.
Improving the Accountability of Federal Regulatory Agencies, Part II: Assessing Eight Government-wide Accountability Reforms
By Marcus Peacock
Greater accountability at regulatory agencies is desirable because (1) the public has a right to know how government affects society and (2) greater accountability improves agency performance. As described in the last Insight in this series, the U.S. attempted eight major government-wide initiatives to increase accountability at federal agencies, including regulatory agencies. This Insight reviews public and expert opinion, which indicate these initiatives failed to improve accountability. New proposals to improve accountability at regulatory agencies could benefit from understanding why previous efforts fell short.