Our Commentaries and Insights are short-form publications intended to distill long-form research and synthesize current policymaking activity into easily understood concepts.
By: Laura Stanley
The Drug Enforcement Administration plans to release a flurry of proposed and final regulations this year, up significantly from previous years. Several of the regulations teed up at the DEA are long-awaited actions that seek to address the ongoing opioid epidemic.
By: Zhoudan Xie
The General Services Administration unveiled a beta version of Regulations.gov with a feature that may substantially increase the ease of submitting mass comments.
By: Aryamala Prasad
In May 2018, the European Union (EU) implemented the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to safeguard personal data. Recent studies explore the reasons for the troubling and unintended consequence of GDPR on competition and market concentration.
By: Bridget C.E. Dooling
The Government Accountability Office has become referee in an increasingly important part of the administrative state: determining which actions are “rules” under the Congressional Review Act. The significance of these opinions, which are not binding as a matter of law, has grown as legislators use them strategically in regulatory politics.
By: Jerry Ellig
Ellig finds that the SEC, in just a few years, has closed the gap between the quality of its economic analysis and the average quality of economic analysis produced by executive branch agencies.
By: Bridget C.E. Dooling
A new project by ACUS features several GW scholars; Steven Balla, Emily Hammond, and Bridget Dooling, plus other prominent scholars of the rulemaking comment process.
By: Mark Febrizio
This Regulatory Insight analyzes four Trump administration budget proposals to identify notable recurring trends in regulatory spending.
By: Bridget C.E. Dooling
It’s always hard for an agency to envision all of the potential consequences that a proposed rule might unleash. That’s part of why the public comment process is so critical: it gives the public an opportunity to shine a light on what an agency missed or omitted.
By: Brian Mannix
OMB’s guidance on regulatory analysis directs agencies to evaluate regulatory benefits and costs using two standard discount rates, 3 percent and 7 percent, but it gives little insight on how to use them other than to try both. The initial draft of OMB’s first such guidance, published in 1988, did include specific instructions on how to use two rates simultaneously, but those instructions were deleted in the editing process. This Regulatory Insight recreates those original instructions, and explains how they help to resolve many misunderstandings about discounting that have developed since then.
By: Jerry Ellig
Financial regulatory agencies can produce useful economic analysis to inform regulatory decisions if they keep three principles in mind: (1) Focus on regulatory impact analysis (RIA), not just benefit-cost analysis (BCA); (2) The analysis is not the decision; and (3) Build institutional capacity to support objective analysis.
By: Laura Stanley
Executive Order 13891 requires agencies to take actions to promote transparency and public participation in the development of certain guidance documents. Last month, some federal agencies hit a tight deadline set out in the executive order, while other agencies lag behind.
By: Zhoudan Xie
This analysis shows that the expression about regulation in the COVID-related news was negative in most days during the beginning of the virus outbreak, but it started to improve in mid-March. However, the level of uncertainty expressed in the news shows no signs of diminishing, indicating persistent uncertainty surrounding regulation in the time of COVID-19.
By: Daniel R. Pérez
The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs released the final Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions before the upcoming presidential election this November. The entries listed in the Agenda illustrate that multiple agencies plan to issue more regulatory actions than deregulatory actions in the coming months with substantive rulemakings involving immigration, energy efficiency standards, the regulation of tobacco, and changes to various transfer programs. For those rules expected to have the largest effect on society, agencies are on track to issue twice as many regulatory actions as deregulatory actions.
By: Jerry Ellig
An Administrative Conference of the United States recommendation could help agencies better organize their economics staffs.
By: Brian F. Mannix
EPA is simultaneously pursuing two related initiatives: a revision of its longstanding Guidelines for Economic Analysis, and an NPRM on the use of such analyses in rulemakings under the Clean Air Act. Meanwhile, CEQ has been making major revisions to its regulations governing NEPA for all federal agencies, but the president just signed an Executive Order telling agencies to try to work around NEPA. What’s going on? Part II of this two part commentary looks at NEPA.
By: Brian F. Mannix
EPA is simultaneously pursuing two related initiatives: a revision of its longstanding Guidelines for Economic Analysis, and an NPRM on the use of such analyses in rulemakings under the Clean Air Act. Meanwhile, CEQ has been making major revisions to its regulations governing NEPA for all federal agencies, but the p resident just signed an Executive Order telling agencies to try to work around NEPA. What’s going on? Part I of this two part commentary looks at EPA.
By: Jerry Ellig
President Trump’s executive order on social media instructs the secretary of commerce to petition the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for a rulemaking that could limit social media companies’ exemption from lawsuits if they remove or restrict political speech because they disagree with the speaker’s viewpoint. Any such rulemaking would raise formidable economic and analytical issues as well as legal issues. This commentary outlines the questions FCC analysts would have to address just to determine whether a problem exists that regulation might solve.
By: Bridget C.E. Dooling -- Originally published by the Yale Journal on Regulation
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in fewer days in D.C. than usual for Congress. One consequence of this decision is that, due to a quirk in how it’s calculated, the Congressional Review Act window has likely expanded, placing more rules in jeopardy than expected.
By: Zhoudan Xie
Uncertainties induced by COVID-19 are worsening the economic impact of the pandemic. Policy uncertainty reached a historical peak during the past two months, while uncertainty specifically around regulatory policy appears to be muted.
By: Bridget C.E. Dooling -- Originally published by the Brookings Institution
As federal agencies scramble to respond to COVID-19, there’s another initiative rolling forward that you probably haven’t heard of, one that was built by data wonks and will influence regulation in ways we’re just now beginning to understand. As part of a new legal requirement, agencies are writing learning agendas to organize the way they approach research, including regulatory research.
By: Laura Stanley
In 2007, DEA placed a moratorium on approving new mobile narcotic treatment programs. Under a recently proposed rule, DEA would repeal the moratorium and establish requirements for mobile narcotic treatment programs.
By: Daniel R. Pérez
A new report by the GW Regulatory Studies Center finds that analysis of public comments can help agencies pick which regulations to evaluate. In addition to feedback about individual regulations that commenters point out as candidates for review, the underlying characteristics of those regulations can be used by agencies to prioritize additional regulations for evaluation.
By: Bridget C.E. Dooling
The General Services Administration is considering how to modernize the eRulemaking program. The second of two public meetings is coming up on April 30 from 2pm-4pm ET. It will be held entirely online and it’s got a great lineup that packs a lot into 2 hours. Registration is easy and free.
By: Laura Stanley -- Originally published by The Regulatory Review
A proposed rule to speed up administrative decision-making could have unintended consequences.
By: Zhoudan Xie
Public comments have been a valuable source of data in research studying public participation and bureaucratic behavior. Our recent report analyzes public comments from an unconventional perspective and reveals a new way for researchers to use comments as data.
March 24, 2020
By Bridget C.E. Dooling
Congressional oversight of the regulatory process tends to be criticized for its anemia, but there are signs that Congress does sometimes engage in subtle and complex oversight techniques. One under-studied example of this arises under a 1996 statute called the Congressional Review Act (CRA) and hinges on the work of the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). Known more for its role as an auditor, GAO has created a role for itself as a referee in an increasingly important part of the administrative state.
March 11, 2020
By John Bertino
The Dept. of Transportation is seeking comments on regulations related to animals on planes. Commenters should help the agency improve its benefit-cost analysis, and further clarify all of the trade-offs facing consumers and industry.
March 9, 2020
By Laura Stanley
FDA and USDA proposed a rule in 2005 to establish general principles the agencies could rely on to evaluate food identity standards. The agencies did not finalize the rule, but FDA recently reopened the comment period on the proposal.
February 11, 2020
By Zhoudan Xie
GSA convened a public meeting on mass and fake comments as part of its initiative to modernize Electronic Rulemaking Management. The meeting raised several fundamental questions on the nature and impact of mass and fake comments for us to consider.
February 5, 2020
By Jerry Ellig
Ellig offers three lessons learned major regulatory reforms over the past forty years; 1. Intentions do not equal results, 2. Facts are stubborn things, and 3. We can make progress together on policy if we focus on evidence.
January 27, 2020
Zhoudan Xie and Mark Febrizio recap the top ten regulatory developments in 2019.
December 19, 2019
By Jerry Ellig
Legal scholars such as Cass Sunstein, Jonathan Masur, and Eric Posner argue that federal regulatory agencies will face increasing pressure from courts in the coming years to produce high-quality economic analysis to inform decisions about regulations. While some are concerned about courts’ capability to review economic analysis, the fact is that courts are already doing it. Several recent research projects shed light on the relationship between the quality of an agency’s economic analysis and the risk that a regulation will be overturned in court.
December 18, 2019
The Regulatory Reform Results for Fiscal Year 2019 are out, and OIRA is touting that regulatory agencies produced $13.5 billion in present value cost savings. Beyond the glossy highlights, however, are a few important “firsts” in implementation, such as total agency cost savings falling short of the government-wide targets.
December 11, 2019
The Congressional Review Act allows Congress to disapprove regulations issued by agencies and contains a lookback provision that places almost six months of rulemaking in jeopardy of elimination by the next Congress. The window for this period of review opens in 2020, but agencies will have to weigh the tradeoffs of rushing to publish their rules before the window. According to the 2020 House calendar, any rules issued after May 19, 2020 may be subject to review by the 117th Congress. However, historical data suggest the lookback period is more likely to begin sometime in July or early August of 2020.
November 20, 2019
This morning, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) released its annual Regulatory Plan and semiannual Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions. Notably absent is the Regulatory Reform Status Report, which tracks executive agency performance in complying with the deregulatory requirements of Executive Order (EO) 13771. With regards to actions listed as active in the Agenda, agencies plan to issue an average of approximately 2.5 significant deregulatory actions for every 1 regulatory action. However, our analysis of economically significant actions suggests a potential shift in agency rulemaking.
November 18, 2019
Although regulatory impact analysis would certainly not automate STB regulatory decisions, it would provide a coherent and organized framework for discovering and presenting information about the likely consequences of regulatory alternatives.
November 12, 2019
The FY 2020 Regulators’ Budget requests an overall increase in spending. Details within that request point to a notable increase in spending for agencies focused on homeland security, with a decrease in agency spending for regulators focused on the environment and energy.
November 06, 2019
The proposed Environmental Appeals Board reforms will provide a faster path to a final EPA decision, so that applicants can either live with it or challenge it in court, but in either case they will not be stuck in administrative limbo.
October 16, 2019
The Department of Education recently published its long-awaited, final rule detailing how the agency will process borrower defense and other loan discharges related to its Federal Direct Loan Program. The final rule applies to all loans disbursed on or after July 1, 2020 and departs from the agency’s approach to adjudicating claims under the Obama administration.
October 07, 2019
New research finds that agencies perform a detailed review of mass comment campaigns on their proposed rules, but the affect of these campaigns on the outcome of final rules may be negligible.
October 02, 2019
Regulatory review of agency rulemaking activity through the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs should be linked to each agency’s strategic planning, and carry budgetary consequences. This will help agencies to more clearly define their goals, achieve their objectives, and reward positive results.
September 16, 2019
Judicial review of agency benefit-cost analysis is on the rise. Although courts are paying more attention to these analyses, they lack a robust toolkit to assess them. A cross-government rule, written by OIRA, could help by giving courts a set of standards against which they can assess agency rules.
August 29, 2019
America’s founders strove for a government based on a separation of powers, wherein federal power would be limited, and divided among three branches. Counting on “ambition [to] counteract ambition,” they designed the Constitution to allow each branch to challenge the powers or decisions of another. Over the last century, the executive branch has grown dramatically, raising questions as to how relevant the Framers’ notion of checks and balances is today.
August 26, 2019
Later this Fall, the GW Regulatory Studies Center will celebrate 10 years at the university. The Center’s first decade has been a fulfilling journey to improve regulatory policy through research, education, and outreach, and we look forward to the decade ahead.
August 19, 2019
In an effort to modernize a critical part of the rulemaking process, the Office of Information & Regulatory Affairs recently developed an online platform for individuals and groups interested in a particular proposal to request a formal meeting.
August 12, 2019
Executive Order 13878 creates a council tasked with reducing regulations to make housing more affordable. The multi-agency council will work with all levels of government, and private sector stakeholders to collect information and propose reforms before its termination date of Jan. 21, 2021.
August 05, 2019
The DASHBOARD Act would impose several data-disclosure requirements on large companies that monetize online user data. The Act assumes a market failure of information asymmetry, where consumers undervalue their personal data. However, the evidence for this claim is indeterminate, and a lack of clarity on data property rights and liability could make corresponding rules difficult to enforce.
July 31, 2019
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently issued three final regulatory actions governing greenhouse gas emissions from electric power plants. These rules will face new legal challenges based on both the economic analysis and the statutory authority for EPA’s actions. Mannix briefly reviews some of the major issues likely to be in contention.
July 23, 2019
Regulators are humans, not robots. This simple truth reminds us that individual decision-makers responsible for developing and implementing regulations face the same cognitive limitations that consumers face in the marketplace. Institutional reforms to regulators’ choice architecture may help mitigate these biases.
July 15, 2019
Susan Dudley and her co-panelists discuss the effect of Trump’s Executive Order 13771, repeated losses for the administration in court, the administration’s view of benefit-cost analysis, and more at an ABA Regulatory Policy Committee meeting.
July 03, 2019
July 03, 2019
The Supreme Court ruling in Tennessee Wine & Spirits Retailers Association v. Thomas confirms that the U.S. Constitution does not allow states to engage in naked economic protectionism just because the product is alcohol.
June 17, 2019
The IRS prohibits individual taxpayers from deducting charitable contributions on their federal taxes if they received a state or local tax credit in exchange for the contribution, but allows them to count such donations as state or local tax payments subject to the $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions.
June 12, 2019
As part of a cooperative agreement with the USDA, a new GW Regulatory Studies Center report finds that growth in total regulation has a negative relationship with land productivity growth, and the relationship differs according to the form of regulation.
May 22, 2019
The Spring 2019 Unified Agenda includes a total of 3,791 actions, 295 of which are classified as regulatory, 721 as deregulatory, with the remainder exempt or classified as “other.” Of the total number of actions, 177 are economically significant. The agencies with the most deregulatory actions planned are the Department of Transportation (DOT) with 129 actions and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) with 65; these same two agencies have had the most deregulatory actions planned since the Fall 2017 Agenda.
May 21, 2019
On February 13, 2019, the Department of Energy (DOE) released a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that updates its internal rulemaking procedures for energy conservation standards, called the Process Rule. Policy analyst Mark Febrizio submitted a public comment on DOE’s proposed revisions to the Process Rule that focused on eight areas of interest in the revised Process Rule, highlighting both beneficial changes and additional areas for improvement. This commentary builds on the public comment by examining how the Process Rule connects with two broader concepts in regulatory policy—formalizing internal procedures and retrospective review.
May 03, 2019
Prior to the proposal of a new rule, agencies may decide to seek public comment through an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) on whether a new rule is necessary and what should be included if the rule progresses. Despite the importance of public participation in rulemaking, only 5% of all significant rules are preceded by an ANPRM. This commentary takes a closer look at trends in the use of ANPRMs and suggests questions for further research.
April 29, 2019
Precise statutory language corresponds to better benefit-cost analysis and more consistent judicial review. Originally posted in The Regulatory Review.
April 17, 2019
A March 2019 Policy Research Working Paper for the World Bank Group examines how “business-friendly” regulations and their enforcement affect poverty at the country level. This review analyzes the paper’s main claims, examines its methodology, and recommends ways to make improvements. In its current form, the paper makes strong claims that are not fully supported by the results or methodology. Modifying the analysis could enhance the findings and expand the paper’s contribution to the literature on country-level determinants of poverty. Rather than offering a clear path forward to addressing poverty, the paper is better seen as a starting point for further research.
April 16, 2019
The proposed revision to the definition of the “waters of the United States” is a significant improvement over prior definitions, including that adopted in 2015. If the definition contained in the final rule is similar to that which has been proposed, it is likely to provide greater legal certainty for the regulated community and is likely to be less vulnerable to legal challenge than were prior definitions.
April 03, 2019
Recent discussions on online privacy regulation refer to the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation. It is often seen as a good model to follow for protecting personal data in the digital age. We apply a benefit-cost framework to understand its implications on this side of the Atlantic. Given the existing regulations, an evidence-based approach to identify net-benefits might offer a balanced approach to personal data protection.
The Eagle and the Dragon: Comparing Government Consultation and Public Participation between the US and China
March 27, 2019
This commentary demonstrates an interesting comparison in government consultation and public participation between the US and China. It shows that the US and China appear to have little variation in consultation procedures and participation levels, but major divergence in the level of transparency and the type of stakeholders who participate.
March 20, 2019
Cass Sunstein spoke at the Society for Benefit-Cost Analysis Annual Conference & Meeting on March 15th, graduate assistant Julie Balla summarizes his remarks which included a call to action to tackle both the stock and flow of paperwork burdens.
March 13, 2019
Policymakers face demands to act today to protect against a wide range of future risks, and to do so without impeding economic growth. Yet traditional analytical tools may not be adequate to frame the relevant uncertainties and tradeoffs. Challenges such as climate change, nuclear war, and widespread natural disasters don’t lend themselves to decision rules designed for discrete policy questions and marginal analyses. We refer to such issues as “uncertain futures.”
More flexible and dynamic decision-analysis approaches that anticipate the need to learn from experience (and that encourage learning) are essential. Developing a body of research that cuts across disciplines to introduce better tools for anticipating and examining uncertain future risks can lead to policies that lower the probabilities and mitigate the consequences of these uncertain futures while encouraging economic growth and increasing resilience. To this end, the GW Regulatory Studies Center commissioned four papers from leading experts in different fields.
March 12, 2019
The history of regulatory policy in the United States is rich, but its future remains unclear. Susan Dudley provides four key milestones in the development of the current regulatory policy landscape, and posits that we may be in the midst of a fifth milestone being laid, in this article for The Regulatory Review at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
March 5, 2019
Bridget C.E. Dooling explains how the longest government shutdown in history exposed aspects of the rulemaking process that usually go unseen. She also signals that long shutdowns imperil deregulatory initiatives, which need Federal workers to implement them.
February 6, 2019
This commentary presents data illustrating a substantial reduction in regulatory activity during the government shutdown. Interestingly, despite the end of the shutdown on January 25, the regulatory pace has not yet returned to prior levels. This stall in regulatory output has substantial implications for President Trump’s deregulatory agenda. Since regulations take months to years to move through the notice-and-comment process, the administration may be running short on time to get through the items on the president’s agenda.
January 28, 2019
Research professor Jerry Ellig participated in an educational forum hosted by the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce to discuss his research on electric utility market competition. This commentary provides a summary of Ellig's presentation, and an overview of the reform ideas presented by his co-panelists.
January 14, 2019
Just as in 2017, regulatory policy continued to be a focal point of 2018 with key actions ranging from proposed rules to one agency’s establishment of a new economics office to inform regulatory decisions. While not comprehensive, this Regulatory Insight highlights ten important developments related to regulation that occurred in 2018.
January 9, 2020
Next week the US Supreme Court will hear arguments on the constitutionality of a Tennessee law that requires individuals to live in the state for two years before they can obtain a permit to sell alcohol. I signed onto an amicus brief by law and economics scholars that explains why this law is a paradigmatic example of protectionist legislation that provides concentrated benefits to well-organized groups while dispersing the costs among a much larger group -- consumers.
December 21, 2018
In November 2018, Canada released its Fall Economic Statement 2018, which addresses a number of regulatory reform initiatives. The document is a broad review of the progress Canada has made on government commitments, an evaluation of the country’s recent economic record, and a discussion of forward-looking initiatives focused on economic growth and innovation. As we look ahead to 2019, Canada’s report includes regulatory modernization efforts that may translate to the U.S. context.
December 12, 2018
In reaching its unanimous decision last month that the Fish and Wildlife Service had overreached in designating “critical habitat” for the endangered Dusky Gopher Frog, the Supreme Court dodged an important question that Justice Alito had posed during oral argument: Who should pay for the preservation of this public good?
November 27, 2018
The GW Regulatory Studies Center is the hub for rigorous, applied academic research in regulatory policy. Our scholars are the leading experts in their field of study. We regularly interact with key bipartisan leaders across the federal government, thought leaders in academia, popular news outlets, and the apex of industry. And we have big plans for the future.
November 27, 2018
The economic foundations of Executive Order 12,866 underscore its continued importance in regulatory review. This was originally published in The Regulatory Review, a publication of the Penn Program on Regulation.
November 26, 2018
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.
November 19, 2018
Understanding the FCC's economic thinking behind its Restoring Internet Freedom order, which repealed and replaced Net Neutrality, has not been easy to decipher for anyone interested in the subject. In this commentary, and a brand new journal entry, research professor and former FCC chief economist Jerry Ellig provides a concise explanation of the agency's rationale behind the order, and points out its previous disregard for economic analysis.
November 12, 2018
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency are evaluating comments on their proposed Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient Vehicles Rule that sets Corporate Average Fuel Economy and carbon dioxide emission standards. Policy analyst Mark Febrizio summarizes a comment on the proposed rule submitted by Julian Morris on behalf of the GW Regulatory Studies Center, which argued that the proposal will save billions of dollars in economic costs, potentially decrease traffic fatalities, and is unlikely to have a significant negative effect on the environment.
October 25, 2018
The Federal Communications Commission has just announced approval for it to organize an Office of Economics and Analytics. Jerry Ellig - former FCC chief economist and current Regulatory Studies Center research professor - discusses what that means for the independent agency's rulemaking process.
October 22, 2018
John Cooney - former OMB Deputy General Counsel - moderated the, 'Looking to the Future' panel of our 'Celebrating 25 Years of E.O. 12866' event, and in this commentary he explains how this executive order struck a balance among competing ideas at the time and argues that its core principles will continue to govern the regulatory review process.
October 17, 2018
In her introduction to the Fall 2018 Regulatory Plan, OIRA Administrator Neomi Rao states that the administration’s regulatory reform efforts will continue to prioritize reforms that target economic growth and foster technological innovation and consumer choice. The Fall 2018 Unified Agenda includes a total of 3,534 regulatory actions—174 of which are economically significant. Of these, 257 are classified as regulatory, 671 as deregulatory, with the remainder exempt or classified as “other.” Compared to the Spring 2018 Agenda, the total number of actions increased from 3,352 to 3,534. The number of active rulemakings in this Agenda increased slightly (2,399 compared to 2,226 last spring). Of those, the number of economically significant actions increased from 88 in the Spring 2018 Agenda to 118 in the Fall 2018 Agenda. Interestingly, of the 118 economically significant actions listed, 26 are deregulatory, 41 are regulatory, 15 are exempt, and the rest are classified as “other.”
October 17, 2018
Policy Analyst Daniel R. Pérez provides an overview of the Trump administration's release of the 2018 Fall Agenda and status update on the implementation of Executive Order 13771.
October 15, 2018
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.
October 12, 2018
Daniel Flores is a Majority Staff member of the House Judiciary's Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law, and in this commentary he explains why Congress has long been considering ways to assure legislative activity is animated and guided by the 'Statement of Regulatory Philosophy and Principles' within Executive Order 12866.
October 9, 2018
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.
October 09, 2018
NYU Law Professor Richard Revesz, although supportive of the bipartisan consensus of benefit-cost analysis, is concerned for the future of the principles behind E.O. 12866. This commentary provides his opening remarks and ten examples of what he sees as concerning actions from the current administration.
October 09, 2018
Neil Eisner, former Assistant General Counsel for Regulation and Enforcement, Dept. of Transportation, comments on the initial implementation and adoption of Executive Order 12866, highlights four significant accomplishments it has had within the rulemaking process, and offers a few lessons learned.
October 05, 2018
Susan Dudley, former OIRA Administrator, discusses how Executive Order 12866 has lead to bipartisan consensus of regulatory principles, reviews the ongoing effects of this 25-year-old rulemaking process, and why it is likely to continue to make a significant difference well into the future.
October 03, 2018
Clark Nardinelli, Chief Economist at FDA and Vice President of the Society for Benefit Cost Analysis, comments on the philosophy underlying E.O. 12866 and the 12 principles of good regulation. He recently participated in the "Looking Back on 25 Years" panel at the Regulatory Studies Center forum celebrating 25 Years of E.O. 12866.
October 02, 2018
Bridget Dooling is a research professor at the GW Regulatory Studies Center. She moderated the "Looking Back on 25 Years" panel, and in this commentary she shares her key take-aways as well as her overall impressions of the event, informed by her tenure in OIRA.
October 02, 2018
Shawne McGibbon (General Counsel, Administrative Conference of the United States) comments on the refreshing bipartisan discussions around E.O. 12866 and how legislative vehicles can codify the E.O.'s requirements.
October 01, 2018
Sally Katzen (OIRA Administrator with President Clinton) reflects on how Executive Order 12866 came into existence and lays down the foundation for why it has thrived over the past 25 years of bipartisan administrations.
September 26, 2018
By Mark Febrizio, Daniel R. Pérez, & Zhoudan Xie
This week marks the 25th anniversary of Executive Order 12866, Regulatory Planning and Review. This document, signed by President Clinton in 1993, built on orders from previous administrations to cement the regulatory principles and centralized review that continue to guide the rulemaking process today. Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) Administrators who led this review under presidents Clinton, Bush 43, Obama, and Trump gathered Monday at the George Washington University along with government experts and scholars to discuss why these principles and processes have withstood the test of time across changes in administrations and political parties.
September 19, 2018
On September 12, the GW Regulatory Studies Center co-hosted an event with the Deloitte Center for Government Insights and the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration on the Future of Regulation. Experts from government agencies, think tanks, private sector companies, and universities discussed how emerging technologies are impacting traditional regulatory systems. This commentary highlights key themes from the event, including the importance of regulatory humility, the alternative regulatory tools available to agencies, opportunities for regulators to improve outcomes and compliance, and the challenges associated with regulating emerging technologies.
September 05, 2018
Building on a new report published by the Behavioural Insights Team in the UK, this commentary discusses behavioral biases of regulators. Although we usually talk about “nudging” to correct irrational choices of individual citizens, recent research demonstrates a willingness to challenge the assumption that policymakers have a better grasp on individuals’ optimal choices than the individuals themselves. This commentary explores this idea in the U.S. context, focusing on regulators’ behavior. It compares private and public decision makers, and illustrates the importance of applying behavioral insights to public decision making.
August 29, 2018
CEQ is considering revisions to its implementing rules for NEPA. This offers an opportunity for CEQ to align its NEPA regulations with regulatory best practices and improve data collection for conducting retrospective review. Better data collection would improve evaluation of the effectiveness of NEPA implementation. Data should be comparable across time and agencies and made publicly available. Agencies like DOE have already demonstrated that it is possible to collect and report such data, even if the methods of conveying the information to the public could be improved.
August 22, 2018
On August 21, 2018, EPA proposed its replacement for the Clean Power Plan that the Supreme Court stayed in 2016. The new “Affordable Clean Energy” (ACE) rule is dramatically different from the Obama-era Clean Power Plan; it focuses on increasing efficiency and providing states more flexibility, rather than shifting power generation away from coal and fossil fuels. Dudley reviews the legal and analytical background for the rule and observes that market forces will likely cause greenhouse gas emissions to continue to decline.
August 1, 2018
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.
August 01, 2018
On June 19, 2018, the Deloitte Center for Government Insights published an article on The Future of Regulation: Principles for Regulating Emerging Technologies. In it, William D. Eggers, Mike Turley, and Pankaj Kishnani lay out the business and technological challenges of regulating today’s technologies. The article offers five principles for regulating emerging technologies: adaptive regulation, outcome-based regulation, risk-weighted regulation, collaborative regulation, and regulatory sandboxes. This commentary explores regulatory sandboxes, a concept borrowed from the tech sector and first implemented in the United Kingdom.
July 24, 2018
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael O'Rielly recently made the case for the agency to provide more detailed benefit-cost analyses, and to establish better internal processes aimed at improving regulatory outcomes - other independent agencies should take note.
July 16, 2018
The Department of Homeland Security is proposing to eliminate its international entrepreneur program, which was created in 2017, despite the agency's previous findings that the program will increase economic growth, job creation, and U.S. based innovation. The proposal also runs contrary to the administration's declared policy of shifting towards a more merit-based immigration system, decreasing regulatory costs, and demonstrated early success from the program.
July 09, 2018
As OIRA continues to oversee the Trump Administration's efforts to cut regulatory red tape, the growing scope of OIRA's regulatory review could mean increases in staffing and funding. A look at this year's Regulators' Budget shows a larger OIRA staff than years past, a signal that growing responsibilities might require more resources in the future.
June 25, 2018
In a comment filed on the advanced notice, David Zorn observes that FDA’s plan to develop a maximum nicotine level for cigarettes in hopes to establish a standard that doesn't initiate or perpetuate addiction to cigarettes for potential smokers is a novel and creative approach to promote public health. Although such an approach was suggested decades ago, it has not been implemented in any other country. The plan is creative because, rather than attempting to regulate the hazards out of a product that some consumers demand, the policy would reduce the appeal of a product that is laden with hazards. However, the plan is speculative and unproven, and some tests of its underlying hypothesis cast some doubt on its likelihood of success.
June 06, 2018
The Treasury Board of Canada and the U.S. Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs signed a Memorandum of Understanding last week to continue collaborating on the Canada-United States Regulatory Cooperation Council. With the goal of reducing unnecessary differences between the two countries' regulatory framework, the MOU promotes a joint effort to create mutually beneficial economic outcomes, despite recent trade tariffs imposed on Canada by the U.S.
May 30, 2018
This Regulatory Insight addresses the information gap in how regulations are measured when determining their effect on economic growth and other macroeconomic measures by developing a taxonomy of regulatory forms. In partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, this framework allows regulations to be classified by the form they employ to achieve the stated regulatory outcomes. We expect this taxonomy to also be applicable to industries outside of agriculture, and to be utilized by researchers and analysts in a wide range of fields as a framework for informing research on the relative effectiveness of different regulatory forms to address market and social problems.
May 10, 2018
The Spring 2018 Unified Agenda includes a total of 3,352 regulatory actions, 234 of which are classified as regulatory, 611 as deregulatory, with the remainder exempt or classified as “other.” Of the total number of actions, 139 are economically significant. The Agenda distinguishes between active regulations (those with milestones within the next 12 months), long-term actions, and completed actions. Of the 2,226 actions listed as active approximately 24% are published for the first time in this Spring Agenda. Altogether, for active actions in the Agenda, executive agencies under the Trump administration plan to take an average of approximately 4 deregulatory actions for every 1 regulatory action.
May 07, 2018
Europe's implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will compel companies and organizations to abide by new data collection requirements, and require certain firms to staff a Data Protection Officer tasked with monitoring data security and producing impact assessments. Further changes will require individuals to "opt-in" to all forms of data sharing, and require companies to report any data breaches within 72 hours. These changes will certainly impact U.S. tech firms, but may also affect non-profit and higher education institutions, along with hospitality, travel, and e-commerce companies.
April 23, 2018
Despite his rhetoric on regulation, President Trump continues to require agencies to make decisions based on an understanding of regulatory benefits and costs. Although he has overlaid a budget constraint on these existing requirements, and his executive orders signal less emphasis on estimating regulatory benefits, this may not be all bad.
April 16, 2018
After weeks of negotiations, the Treasury Department and Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) agreed last week that IRS regulations would be subject to the same analytical requirements and interagency review as other agencies’ rules. Susan Dudley thinks the memorandum of agreement strikes the right balance between ensuring regulations are well-reasoned and cost-effective, while not inhibiting the issuance of timely guidance for taxpayers.
April 10, 2018
This article examines the effects of procedural requirements for both the implementation and repeal of agency rules. Cost-benefit analyses, judicial reviews, and other requirements in the rule-making process formalized by the Administrative Procedure Act and Information Quality Act have long been championed by opponents of regulatory accumulation as a means to slow the growth of regulations. Reform initiatives under the current administration to delay implementation of new rules or repeal current rules are now facing these same barriers that have lead toward a rigid, fastened regulatory state.
March 09, 2018
Although federal law specifies procedures and requirements for agencies to consider public feedback in how they design their rules, the ways in which they plan for and develop these rules internally is largely a “black box” which is far less understood by this same public, or even scholars for that matter. Yet, as a recent GW Regulatory Studies Center working paper by Christopher Carrigan and Russell Mills demonstrates, agencies can employ very different decision-making configurations to administer their internal rulemaking processes, which can have important effects on the character and timing of the resulting rules.
February 26, 2018
On Friday, OMB released its Draft Report to Congress on the Benefits and Costs of Federal Regulations, which provides a window into the benefits and costs of 137 regulations issued between fiscal year 2007 and FY 2016. According to agency estimates, these 137 rules add up to $930.3 billion in annual benefits and $128.4 billion in annual costs. The rules included in this report are those issued by previous administrations, and as a result these totals don’t include the regulatory reforms implemented during the first year of the Trump administration.
February 20, 2018
The deluge of comments on the recent Net Neutrality rule has raised concerns regarding public participation in rulemaking. Fake comments are presumed to threaten the democratic process and unfairly impact the outcomes. But a closer look at the regulatory process shows that the quality of comments is far more important than the quantity.
February 01, 2018
In his State of the Union speech last night, President Trump claimed “we have eliminated more regulations in our first year than any administration in history.” Assuming he is referring to previous presidents’ first years in office, comparisons of numbers of regulations repealed support his claim. Still, the historic data reveal some valuable nuance that informs evaluation of the administration’s efforts to reduce the burden of regulation. The data for 2017 are in and our RegStats page contains updated graphs and figures presenting several interesting insights into the administration’s regulatory agenda.
January 29, 2018
This Regulatory Insight provides an overview of how regulation is measured and compared across countries, compares the available measures, and examines where the U.S. stands relative to other countries. Internationally-comparable measures of regulation are mostly constructed through the composite index approach. This Insight reviews five international regulatory indexes measuring economic freedom, business/competition friendliness, and social regulation. The indexes differ significantly in terms of the coverage of regulation, methodologies and data. Even indexes measuring the same dimension of regulation can present different results, depending on the specific variables and data chosen.
December 18, 2017
This Regulatory Insight highlights ten important regulatory and deregulatory themes that garnered attention—and changed the regulatory landscape—in 2017. Regulatory policy was a focal point of 2017, and notable executive orders, rulemaking, and legislation all contributed to this theme--including the Congressional Review Act, net neutrality, the President's deregulatory agenda, and more.
December 15, 2017
The biannual Unified Agenda provides the public with a look at agency priorities and regulations for the next year. The newest Agenda, released Thursday, includes both regulatory and deregulatory actions that agencies are planning to comply with Executive Order 13771, which requires agencies to offset the costs of new rules by eliminating existing rules. The administration expects that regulatory reforms in the next year will reduce regulatory burdens by $9.8 billion.
December 08, 2017
In response to President Trump’s Executive Order 13771, “Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs,” and EO 13777, “Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda,” two House of Representatives committees have taken interest in assessing the progress of each agency task force and best practices for regulatory reform. On November 29, witnesses from DOI, EPA, and DOE reported on their reform activities and also addressed subcommittee members’ concerns regarding transparency, public participation, and maintaining environmental standards.
November 14, 2017
Although DOT estimates that its proposed vehicle-to-vehicle communication (V2V) mandate would facilitate advances in automotive safety, nixing the regulation may be the right call for the progress of technology and safety-driving innovation. There are two reasons why this may be the case: the government has not historically chosen wisely when mandating technical standards, and doing so now could forestall crucial innovations in vehicle communication and safety.
November 08, 2017
The CRA has been getting much attention recently. Not only did President Trump sign his fifteenth resolution disapproving a CFPB regulation last week, but this action marked the first time a president had disapproved a regulation issued during his own tenure. Congress is also taking steps to apply the CRA to guidance documents and other non-APA agency regulatory actions. These recent actions suggest the CRA is likely to continue to influence the development, implementation, and enforcement of regulation.
November 01, 2017
Brookings recently released a report examining President Trump’s “one-in-two-out” executive order and regulatory budget requirements. The report offers an objective and scholarly analysis of its possible motivations, as well as expected challenges and possible scenarios for its implementation. This commentary illustrates several of its key themes including the rationale for a regulatory budget, President Trump’s regulatory budget compared to similar plans in other countries, and key challenges for the implementation of the regulatory budget.
October 10, 2017
In his new book, "Structured to Fail? Regulatory Performance under Competing Mandates," Professor Christopher Carrigan tackles a critical question: how does organizational design matter for regulatory agency behavior and performance? To answer it, Carrigan challenges several popular theories about the connections between organizational design and regulatory failures through deeply thoughtful, widely researched analysis. This review assesses the book’s empirical, theoretical and practical contributions while describing its analytical approaches and key findings.
September 07, 2017
The deadline closed last week for interested parties to file comments on EPA’s latest proposed Renewable Fuel Standard, which would require 19.24 billion total gallons of biofuel to be blended into transportation fuels in 2018 and 2019. EPA’s proposed standards fall short of statutorily required levels by 6.76 billion gallons, and if finalized would represent a 40 million gallon decrease from the standards that were finalized in December for 2017. This biofuel mandate is bad news for the environment and for American consumers.
August 28, 2017
We're expanding our Reg Stats to include data on the regulatory output of individual federal agencies during different presidents’ tenures in office. Government agencies issue thousands of regulations each year, and it is no small task to identify which among them likely have the most substantial impacts on society. Understanding the volume of economically significant rules issued by regulatory agencies is useful in analyzing regulatory priorities of different administrations and observing significant shifts in regulatory approaches over time.
July 21, 2017
On Thursday, OMB released its biannual Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions, which outlines the regulatory activity that agencies are planning to undertake in the next year. In comparison to previous Agendas, the 2017 Agenda contains about 31% fewer active regulatory actions in all rulemaking stages combined. Although the new Agenda does not clearly track which regulatory activities are meant to offset new rules per Executive Order 13771, it indicates that agencies are withdrawing a large number of rules.
July 20, 2017
President Trump made immigration reform a key pillar of his campaign. This policy direction is reflected in the 2018 Regulators’ Budget which shows increases both to ICE and CBP. Though we are in a period of dwindling apprehensions causing the cost per apprehension to skyrocket, this year’s proposed expansion would continue a trend that has been growing since 2000. Polices of continual immigration enforcement budgetary expansion should take into account immigration data and trends to allow for a more cost efficient, evidence-based appropriations process.
July 19, 2017
Executive Order 13771 requires agencies to identify two rules for removal for each new significant rule they issue. While some scholars have hypothesized that the requirements of EO 13771 will halt rulemaking entirely, agencies have managed to finalize or publish two significant rules in recent weeks without mentioning the requirements of EO 13771. Going forward, all eyes will be on the Unified Agenda, which lists ongoing and future regulatory actions, to identify the associated regulatory offsets.
June 28, 2017
Argive, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving public engagement in the regulatory process, recently released a report focused on modernizing Regulations.gov. Argive suggests that by employing private sector advances in consumer technology, Regulations.gov can overhaul their archaic regulatory website into an ergonomic, streamlined process where agencies can sort and integrate comments more efficiently, and where private parties can have a larger role shaping regulations, fostering a more transparent system.
June 12, 2017
President Trump’s nominee to lead OIRA, Professor Neomi Rao, testified before the U.S. Senate HSGAC last Wednesday for her confirmation hearing as administrator of the agency responsible for overseeing federal regulatory activity. Given that regulatory scholars say OIRA “may be the most important office you’ve never heard of,” it was refreshing to hear many senators recognize the significance of the position of the OIRA administrator and offer to help the small, but important, agency improve the effectiveness of the regulatory review process.
June 07, 2017
At their onset, and sometimes well beyond that, radical technological breakthroughs can present difficult public policy dilemmas. Emerging technologies are, by definition, full of surprises: there are developments that we cannot fully anticipate, and may include some bad outcomes as well as good ones. In this commentary, Mannix weighs in on the challenges of regulating in a technologically innovative society and provides helpful insight as to how agencies can regulate effectively without impeding innovation.
May 10, 2017
The 60 day window for Congress to use the CRA to repeal rules issued during the Obama midnight period is coming to a close. So far, the most visible results of President Trump’s deregulatory agenda have been signing these legislative actions but today's Senate vote on the methane rule resulted in the CRA's first failure under President Trump. In this commentary, Pérez explains how future regulatory reform efforts will require considerably less expeditious legislative and executive branch action.
April 04, 2017
Congress continues to make history by exercising its powers under the CRA to eliminate rules issued at the end of the Obama administration. To date, 13 resolutions of disapproval have passed both chambers of Congress; two additional bills have passed the House. President Trump has signed eight of these into law with three additional resolutions awaiting his signature. Finally, the Senate passed two more resolutions on March 30th which should be sent to the president soon. Prior to 2017, Congress had only successfully struck down a single rule using the CRA.
April 04, 2017
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.
March 30, 2017
A recent court settlement illustrates that consumers bear burdens—including indirect burdens—as a result of regulation gone awry. In this case, consumers bore costs in the form of higher prices, continued inconvenience, expense, time and bad odors from moldy washing machines. Although consumers in the class action suit didn’t realize it, their moldy washer problem began with DOE’s energy efficiency standards for clothes washers. Because regulations affect all Americans, it’s important to review their effects to make sure consumers aren’t left out to dry.
February 27, 2017
President Trump signed his second executive order aimed at government-wide regulatory practice Friday afternoon. This one is not as dramatic as his January EO 13771, which required agencies to offset the costs of new regulations by removing existing burdens, but it sets up mechanisms for implementing that order, as well as other principles. Specifically, it creates a Regulatory Reform Task Force at each agency, to be headed by a Regulatory Reform Officer, responsible for overseeing implementation of the president’s regulatory reform initiatives and policies.
February 15, 2017
The 115th Congress has wasted no time in exercising its powers under the Congressional Review Act to eliminate regulations issued by federal agencies during the Obama administration. Currently, eight joint resolutions of disapproval have passed the House—two of which were delivered to the president for his signature on February 6. President Trump signed one of these into law on February 14. This marks the first time in 16 years since Congress has successfully used the CRA to eliminate a regulation.
February 01, 2017
President Trump’s new executive order, which follows his promises to cut regulatory costs and eliminate two regulations for every new one issued, is certain to shake up the regulatory state. A regulatory offset policy, like those in the U.K and Canada, could provide agencies incentives to evaluate the costs and effectiveness of their accumulated regulations and determine which ones have outlived their usefulness. However, the devil is in the details, and the order doesn’t specify how the policy will be implemented, which could have a “huge” impact on its effectiveness.
January 18, 2017
The U.S. prides itself on smooth transitions of power, but that doesn’t mean this inaugural week isn’t a tumultuous one. President Obama has until noon on Friday to cement his final legacy; then at 12:01 pm it will be President Trump’s turn to flex his muscle. This commentary provides a quick rundown of the policy changes the lead-up to January 20th has brought, and what to expect on Friday afternoon.
January 11, 2017
The Office of Management and Budget recently published its Exit Memo highlighting several aspects of the agency’s work under President Obama. The memo includes quantitative metrics of the administration’s regulatory output to draw comparisons with regulations issued by agencies under Presidents Clinton and Bush. This commentary describes why measuring regulatory output by comparing economically significant rules is a metric that better characterizes an administration's regulatory priorities.
January 03, 2017
On the day before Christmas Eve, OMB released its annual Draft Report to Congress on the Benefits and Costs of Federal Regulations, which provides a window into regulatory activity conducted by federal agencies in Fiscal Year 2015. According to the Report, new regulations issued between October 2014 and September 2015 have both higher costs and higher benefits than those issued in FY 2014, and that the Environmental Protection Agency remains by far the largest contributor to both regulatory costs and benefits in this Report.
November 30, 2016
President-elect Trump has promised big cuts in regulation, including through a requirement that for “for every one new regulation, two old regulations must be eliminated.” How easy would this be to accomplish? It depends on the circumstances. While regulations cannot be repealed with the stroke of pen (unlike executive orders, which presidents can unilaterally issue and unilaterally revoke), there are procedures for modifying or removing them. In this commentary, Susan Dudley weighs in.
November 18, 2016
OIRA released its biannual Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions, providing the public with a first glimpse at upcoming regulations in the final days of the Obama administration. The final months of an outgoing presidential administration typically generate a significant amount of regulatory activity, termed “midnight” regulation. With a presidential transition on the horizon, many of the midnight regulations on the Obama administration’s agenda could be subject to disapproval by Congress using the Congressional Review Act.
November 08, 2016
George Eads remembers Brookings economist Charles Schultze, author of The Public Use of Private Interest. As Chair of President Carter’s Council of Economic Advisers, Schultze helped to establish the practice of presidential supervision over executive branch regulatory agencies, along with economically informed thinking about regulatory reform.
November 02, 2016
The Department of Education (ED) published a final rule concerning its student loan program on November 1, 2016. This rule attracted a great deal of input during its notice and comment period; ED notes that it received comments from over 50,000 parties. The Department completed its review with remarkable speed considering the amount of input received. The final rule could cost taxpayers up to $3.5 billion per year. Notably, the Department published its final rule without making any substantive changes as a result of the public input it received.
October 25, 2016
Governor Bruce Rauner recently created the Illinois Competitiveness Council, which is charged with reviewing existing rules to eliminate unnecessary regulatory burdens that stifle competition and burden consumers. Illinois isn’t the first to recognize how outdated rules can negatively affect citizens and businesses, and this initiative builds off of efforts in other states and in the federal government. Retrospective review of existing rules is necessary for a well-functioning regulatory process, and Illinois’s new Competitiveness Council is a step in the right direction.
October 20, 2016
Recently, the Executive Yuan of Taiwan issued a directive to extend the duration of the comment period in administrative rulemaking from 14 days to 60 days. This was a welcome move as the longer comment period provides greater opportunity for public participation. In this commentary, Prasad examines the challenges of operationalizing the notice and comment process and possible areas of improvement.
September 29, 2016
Advocates of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) often cite its contribution to national security in their list of reasons for either maintaining or expanding the program. Providing security is a first-order priority of government, but the contribution of the RFS to national security is widely misrepresented. Understanding this component of the program is necessary in order to conduct a fair assessment of whether its benefits outweigh its costs.
September 20, 2016
The U.S. and EU continue to improve outcomes for their citizens through successful regulatory cooperation despite the continued political rhetoric against international trade. On Thursday, September 15, 2016, the George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center co-hosted a conference with the EU Delegation to the United States on “U.S.-EU International Regulatory Cooperation in Practice.” The conference brought together senior officials from the European Commission and U.S. government, experts and practitioners in the areas of trade and regulatory cooperation, industry stakeholders, and consumer interest groups.
August 31, 2016
Ex-ante regulatory impact assessment has a long tradition in many countries but it necessarily depends on unverifiable assumptions and models of how the world would look absent the regulation, and how responses to regulatory requirements will alter those conditions. In essence, ex-ante analyses are hypotheses of the effects of regulatory actions. More consistent and robust evaluation of regulatory outcomes would allow agencies to test those hypotheses. This would be valuable not only for understanding the effect of past actions, but for improving future decisions.
August 22, 2016
Manufactured homes—formerly known as mobile homes—are an affordable source of housing for many elderly and low-income households throughout the U.S. Recently, DOE proposed new energy efficiency standards for manufactured homes that would increase prices in exchange for reduced long-term operating costs. However, this tradeoff may not make sense for many manufactured home owners who live in climates where the cost savings don’t add up. DOE’s proposal doesn’t pass the benefit-cost test, and increased efficiency will price many consumers—particularly low-income consumers—out of the market for homes entirely.
August 09, 2016
The latest tally of the amount of money it will take to run federal regulatory programs this fiscal year is $63 billion, a 0.7 percent increase over last year. With the government’s debt held by the public now 75 percent of GDP any increase in spending may seem generous but, for regulatory program managers, it is a reminder that they are living under increasingly tighter budget constraints than in the past. In this commentary, Peacock examines this significant challenge for regulatory agencies and for the next president.
August 03, 2016
The Department of Education’s proposed new regulation regarding student loans is getting a lot of attention. It received almost 7,000 public comments on proposed changes to how it administers its Federal Direct Loan Program and its requirements for post-secondary schools whose students pay for tuition using federally funded student loans. Unfortunately, ED has not done its homework. Our comment on the proposed rule finds that is likely to create more problems than it solves. This rule could end up hurting the poor and costing taxpayers up to $4.23 billion per year.
July 19, 2016
With the recent release of the George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center’s 2017 Regulator’s Budget, there are increasing concerns surrounding the rate of growth for OIRA staff and budget relative those of other regulatory agencies. OIRA has been regarded as a highly important facet of the regulatory process. Yet, as their responsibilities grow, OIRA is less equipped to handle increased regulatory activity. OIRA’s lack of resources could have a significant impact on the quality of regulatory oversight if the federal budget continues to leave them behind.
June 22, 2016
After a lengthy and rancorous public comment period, the SEC on Friday did the right thing in approving the application of IEX to become a full-fledged stock exchange. The use of brief delays, such as IEX’s deterministic delay, promises to improve the economic efficiency of financial trading. The Commission also did the right thing in committing to study developments over the next two years. While the internal logic of the IEX exchange is straightforward, the interactions among 13 stock exchanges, each with a different microstructure and timing, will inevitably be complex. The SEC will need to bring additional expertise to bear on the problem of market microstructure.
June 14, 2016
Government regulations would benefit from a greater appreciation of the ecosystem-like nature of economies and a greater respect for the evolutionary pressures stimulated by competition, choice and decentralized decision-making. We live in a diverse society made up of individuals with varied circumstances and preferences. Regulatory approaches at the national level that reduce competition, choice and feedback disrupt evolutionary processes, protect favored interests from challenge and make the economic ecosystem as a whole less able to adapt and innovate.
June 06, 2016
Regulatory requirements should not create artificial distinctions between competing firms, technologies, or business models. Doing so inevitably distorts competition, inhibits innovation, and harms consumers. Unfortunately, that is precisely what the Federal Communications Commission’s proposed rules governing privacy practices of broadband Internet access service (“BIAS”) providers would do. This commentary examines the impacts of the proposed rules on consumers and the economy and explains how privacy protection should put consumers first.
May 10, 2016
To best inform real-world policy decisions, it is necessary for policy analysts, risk analysts, scientists, and economists to attempt to answer the crucial question: How would changing what we choose to do change the consequences that we care about? In a world of realistically incomplete knowledge and imperfect information, the answer is seldom certain. Risk analyst Tony Cox seeks to answer that question with the new Causal Analytics Toolkit (CAT); a powerful, easy-to-use software that make state-of-the-art causal analytics available to anyone who has Microsoft Excel.
May 04, 2016
The success of populist presidential candidates like Donald Trump is fueled, in part, by a surge in opposition to free trade on both ends of the American political spectrum. Meanwhile, the U.S. and EU continue their negotiation of TTIP aimed at increasing economic growth. A recently published report by the GW Regulatory Studies Center, as part of a two-year grant from the EU to conduct policy research and engage public debate, examines regulatory challenges and opportunities to transatlantic trade.
April 19, 2016
President Obama’s new executive order, aimed at promoting competitive markets, is a welcome announcement. Competition among firms is often the best regulator of undesirable behavior. However, the order and accompanying issue brief fail to recognize that regulation itself, rather than offering a cure for “natural monopoly,” can contribute to some unnatural monopolies. The deregulation of the 1970s and 1980s and competitive markets have generated real gains for consumers and for society as a whole, while markets have evolved in beneficial, previously unanticipated, ways.
April 06, 2016
The Evidence-Based Policymaking Commission Act of 2016, a model of bipartisan cooperation, was signed into law on March 30. It establishes a 15-member commission to examine the feasibility of creating a federal data clearinghouse “to facilitate program evaluation, continuous improvement, policy-relevant research, and cost-benefit analyses by qualified researchers and institutions.” The commission’s report is July-August 2017. This commentary explains that while the law’s emphasis is on program assessment, its scope can be expanded to include regulatory assessments.
March 30, 2016
OSHA issued its long awaited regulation restricting workplace exposure to respirable crystalline silica (RCS) on Friday. Unfortunately, the final rule is unlikely to have the beneficial effects the agency predicts because it doesn’t tackle the core problem. The rule mandates various technologies and practices, but the greatest challenge to reducing risks is not that employers or employees are not motivated to take protective measures, but rather a lack of information, particularly information on the relative toxicity of different forms of silica.
March 29, 2016
Benefit-cost analysis, like all forms of policy analysis operates in a political environment. The politics surrounding a particular issue can go a long way to determining whether analysis can play a role in shaping policy around that issue. As we construct requirements for analysis, advocates for analytical thinking should keep in mind the interaction between analysis and politics. This may mean advocating for the simpler presentation of complex analysis and taking advantage of the synergy between analysis and outside participation.
March 22, 2016
Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management Senator James Lankford and Senator Heidi Heitkamp, respectively, joined the more than 300 attendees of the 8th annual SBCA conference on March 17 to discuss their bipartisan legislation aimed at updating the current federal regulatory system. Their conversation, moderated by Susan Dudley, addressed the discourse they engage in as leaders of the subcommittee and stressed the importance of making the rulemaking process more evidence based and finding common ground in an ever-divisive political atmosphere.
March 14, 2016
The EPA has asked its Environmental Economics Advisory Committee for advice on how the Agency should adjust the value of statistical lives (VSL) in the future. Incomes are expected to grow, and people with higher incomes tend to place a higher value on measures to reduce their own mortality risks. Does this mean that a benefit-cost analysis should place greater weight on lives saved in the future than it does on those saved today? In comments filed with the Committee and summarized here, Mannix argues that this is more than just a question of analytical technique.
March 08, 2016
In a recent Administrative Law Review article, Reeve Bull argues that retrospective review may be the best way to address regulatory buildup. However, the path to effective ex post review of regulations has many obstacles. One of the biggest hurdles is the simple fact that rules are difficult to review—and especially so because they are not written to facilitate measurement ex post. Institutionalizing a requirement for agencies to evaluate whether a regulation’s predicted effects actually materialize would provide a powerful incentive to improve regulatory outcomes.
February 23, 2016
The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs is bracing for the rush of regulatory activity that typically comes during the final year of a presidential administration. A government planning document lists 95 economically significant final regulations as priorities for President Obama’s final year in office. But according to a new report from the Congressional Research Service, any rule published after May 16 runs the risk of being summarily overturned in 2017.
February 17, 2016
Given the escalating concern over the spread of the Zika virus—transmitted mainly by mosquitoes—it is interesting to note that the FDA has sat on a promising remedy for over 4 years. The agency has still not released for public comment its assessment of an application it received back in November of 2011 from the biotech company for a field trial to employ a genetically modified (GM) mosquito with the potential to dramatically reduce the population of these disease-carrying insects.
February 10, 2016
Albert Einstein’s theory of special relativity offers important insights for understanding the physical constraints that shape the microstructure of today’s financial markets. We need to be wary of applying overly simplistic models of how an ideal market should operate, when market data and orders are traveling at speeds approaching the speed of light. Economic concepts like the Efficient Markets Hypothesis – in an efficient market prices will “instantaneously” incorporate all available information – must be tempered by an understanding of the nature of space and time.
February 03, 2016
Regulation is one of the primary vehicles by which federal policy is made, and it affects every household, employee, and business in the U.S. Recognizing this fact, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee recently released a report featuring practical regulatory reforms submitted by the GW Regulatory Studies Center and others. This commentary includes our recommendations for improving regulatory analysis, retrospective review, congressional oversight, and judicial review. With the benefit of public input from stakeholders, the Committee is well-equipped to address ineffective regulations and inadequate oversight by reforming the rulemaking process.
January 20, 2016
Although Congress will not likely enact new legislation in President Obama’s final year in office, regulatory agencies are a different matter. Federal agencies like DOE, EPA, FDA, and OSHA plan to issue several important final rules in 2016, including new energy efficiency standards, e-cigarette rules, and exposure levels for crystalline silica. This commentary examines some of the most noteworthy regulatory actions to expect from federal agencies in 2016.
January 12, 2016
In 2015, President Obama’s executive agencies issued 62 economically significant rules—those defined in Executive Order 12866 as likely to have “an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more,” making last year the second most active regulatory year of his presidency. Many of these rules focused on his regulatory priorities. This commentary looks back at the number of regulations published in 2015 and ahead to 2016, evaluating the President’s activity in the context of regulatory output of previous administrations.
January 06, 2016
Executive Order 12866 requires benefit-cost analyses for all regulations; in many cases these economic analyses rely upon risk assessment for critical inputs. Usually this is not a problem; in principle, risk assessment and benefit-cost analysis are perfectly compatible. But benefit-cost analysis and chemical risk assessment have not had a happy history together. The problem can be traced to some specific practices that historically have characterized chemical risk assessments, and that are widely accepted within that community.
December 21, 2015
Representatives from Korea’s Public-Private Joint Regulation Advancement Initiative (PPJRAI) recently concluded their visit to the United States, where they met with regulatory experts from both the public and private sectors in Washington, D.C. This public-private initiative constitutes an important part of Korea’s efforts to build on its successful history of regulatory reform and improve the market-oriented features of its regulatory system. The GW Regulatory Studies Center met with representatives from PPJRAI to discuss regulatory reform, including its mandate to improve conditions for small and medium enterprises (SME) operating in the Korean economy.
December 17, 2015
The US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) recent decision to approve a genetically engineered salmon for human consumption bodes well for people interested in cheaper fish that are rich in omega three fatty acids. This commentary explores what could either be a new era of innovative animal biotechnology or continuing stagnation.
December 16, 2015
EPA’s newest renewable fuel standard rule mandates the production of over 18 billion gallons of renewable fuel in 2016. Unfortunately, this biofuel mandate is bad news for the environment and for American consumers: the past decade has provided evidence that mandated ethanol production could be creating more carbon dioxide emissions than gasoline and polluting waterbodies via nitrogen fertilizer runoff. The latest final RFS rule was a missed opportunity for EPA to slow the growth of biofuel mandates that increase pollution without accomplishing important environmental goals.
December 01, 2015
As Presidential administrations wind down during their “lame duck” period, their final three months between Election Day and Inauguration Day is usually accompanied by a flurry of last-minute regulatory activity known as the Midnight period. This last-minute increase has direct implications for the quality of review that the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) is able to provide. To get a better sense of what the next Midnight period might mean for the quality of regulatory oversight, we compare President Obama’s current level of regulatory output relative to his predecessors’—Presidents Clinton and Bush.
November 23, 2015
The U.S. Congress and the Executive have implemented different initiatives to evaluate the effectiveness of existing regulations, but despite all these developments, some challenges still exist to systematically conduct retrospective review. There is an ongoing debate on the most effective institutional oversight, procedural requirements and methods needed for a well-functioning retrospective review system. This commentary addresses some of the challenges and argues that inviting program evaluation experts to the regulatory reform debate will be beneficial for the implementation of “retrospective reviews."
November 18, 2015
Regulation is one of the primary vehicles by which a president can affect public policy without going to Congress. For the women and men vying for the job of president, regulatory reform is a key topic of discussion on the 2016 campaign trail. This commentary provides a review of the presidential candidates’ positions on regulatory reform related to recent debates, speeches and public comments.
November 11, 2015
Countries engaged in international trade and investment have been largely successful at reducing many of the traditional barriers to the flow of goods, such as tariffs. As a result, trade deals are increasingly prioritizing the elimination of unnecessary regulatory differences between trade partners which act as a lingering barrier to trade, creating inefficiencies that unnecessarily raise costs for businesses and consumers. This commentary addresses an important mechanism in successful international regulatory cooperation involving efforts by trade partners to provide advanced notice of upcoming regulations that are likely to affect international trade and investment.
November 04, 2015
Learning from experience is an important part of a healthy regulatory process, so multiple government guidelines instruct agencies to incorporate retrospective review plans into their proposals during the rulemaking process. This commentary reviews our latest research, which finds that agencies are not planning prospectively for ex post analysis of their rules. We provide three recommendations to agencies for building their rules to enable better measurement ex post.
November 03, 2015
By Albert McGartland, Ph.D.
Guest post by Albert McGartland reflecting on the life of Wallace Oates: I was a first-year grad student at the University of Maryland in 1979 when I learned that Wally Oates was joining the Economics Department and would teach Environmental Economics in the fall. At the time, I harbored no thoughts of a field in Environmental Economics, but nor did I want to pass up an opportunity to learn from one of our leading academics. I decided to take Wally’s course. The rest, as they say, is history. I never looked back.
October 28, 2015
By Susan E. Dudley
EPA asserts its new 70 parts per billion (ppb) ozone standard, published in the Federal Register on October 26, will avoid 320 to 660 premature deaths each year. However, the agency’s own analysis claims that a more stringent 65 ppb standard would have saved an additional 1,274 to 2,660 lives per year. This commentary examines how, if EPA is required to base the standard on health considerations only, without considering economic factors, can it reconcile setting a standard that leaves so many lives unprotected?
October 21, 2015
By Sofie E. Miller
On October 16, the Office Management and Budget released its annual Draft Report to Congress on the Benefits and Costs of Federal Regulations, which provides a window into regulatory activity conducted by federal agencies in Fiscal Year 2014. The Report estimates that the new regulations issued last fiscal year have both higher costs and lower benefits than those issued in FY 2013, and that the Environmental Protection Agency remains by far the largest contributor to both regulatory costs and benefits in this Report.
The Tension between Optimization and Competition in Rulemaking: The Case of Proposed Fuel-Efficiency Standards for Trucks
October 08, 2015
by Brian Mannix
Choosing regulatory options that maximize net benefits is a sound principle, but it needs to be applied with an appropriate measure of humility. Regulators may be tempted to think that they can use benefit-cost analysis to determine what is “best” for the economy, and then simply mandate it. The collateral damage to competition and innovation can easily turn an otherwise well-intentioned rule into an economic disaster. Regulatory specification of a particular technology can be especially damaging when the technology is proprietary, because then the law may simultaneously lock out competitors and lock in customers.
October 07, 2015
By Susan E. Dudley
This commentary questions EPA’s claim that its new ozone standard is based purely on science, untainted by economic or political considerations. When science is the only factor that can legally be considered in setting a standard, no one is immune to the temptation to put a spin on science to advance policy goals. Current procedures are not transparent and lead to distortions and false precision in the presentation of scientific information, blurring the line between science and policy and contributing to what Dudley calls the “scientization of policy.”
September 22, 2015
by Susan E. Dudley
Rapid technological change, big data, and greater interconnectivity are poised to transform the way we live and work. In the hands of entrepreneurs subject to competitive pressures and a light regulatory hand, they can yield innovations beyond our imagination. For this to occur, however, government regulators must resist the temptation to think that more data should be used to design more detailed interventions in private activities. Rather, guided by the principle of “epistemic humility,” regulation should be designed to encourage competition and experimentation.
September 15, 2015
By Sofie E. Miller
American consumers may not be aware that, over the past decade, government agencies have issued a spate of new regulations establishing costly energy efficiency standards for appliances that most households rely on for everyday tasks, including dishwashers, microwaves, clothes washers, furnaces, and air conditioners. Our latest working paper finds that, while the costs of the standards are very real, the benefits that the Department of Energy relies on to justify its rules don’t stand up to scrutiny.
Consistent Inconsistencies: Misclassification of Rules Could Hamper International Regulatory Cooperation
August 26, 2015
By Daniel R. Pérez
International regulatory cooperation is a central component of current U.S. efforts to negotiate international trade agreements. As traditional barriers to trade decline, understanding regulatory impacts on trade and investment is of particular importance for economic growth, given that these agreements include trade partners that accounted for almost $3 trillion in goods and services traded in 2013. Executive Order 13609 tasked executive regulatory agencies with identifying regulations that were likely to have a significant impact on international trade and investment. We examined the performance of agencies in identifying such regulations and our research suggests there is significant room for improvement.
August 10, 2015
By Susan E. Dudley
Longstanding executive and legislative directives require agencies to analyze the expected impact of new regulatory requirements before they are issued. While important, this ex-ante regulation-by-regulation analysis may not account for the cumulative effect of regulations on society or specific sectors of the economy. Dudley's reflections were triggered by insightful questions for the record posed by Senator Joni Ernst after a joint hearing of the Senate Budget and Homeland Security and Government Affairs on June 23 Senate.
July 28, 2015
By Sofie E. Miller
The Environmental Protection Agency’s latest Renewable Fuel Standard proposal would require 17.4 billion gallons of biofuel to be blended intro transportation fuel in 2016. Unfortunately, as we explain in a comment filed on EPA’s proposal, this biofuel mandate is bad news for the environment and for American consumers. Given the availability of new information on the impacts of the program, Congress should reevaluate whether the Renewable Fuel Standard is accomplishing what Congress intended.
July 15, 2015
By Ana Maria Zarate Moreno
The adoption of the “one in, one out” rule is becoming a popular approach to control the regulatory burden borne by businesses and citizens all over the world. This commentary presents lessons from other countries in implementing this approach. It also highlights the necessity of having established systems for controlling the flow of regulation, sound institutional quality and strong oversight in order to effectively control the regulatory burden.
July 13, 2015
By Sydney E. Allen
On July 9, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan established the state's Regulatory Reform Commission with a focus on 10 key issue areas. The 13 + member commission aims to analyze and review Maryland regulations with public input. In 2014, Maryland ranked lower than 35 states in terms of business friendly regulations - can this Commission improve the state's regulatory woes? The conversation has begun but the regulatory hurdles don't end at the Maryland state line.
July 07, 2015
By Saayee Arumugam
Spending programs in the fiscal budget come with salient costs: the taxes (or debt) used to finance them. Regulations can accomplish similar policy objectives, but with less transparent costs and muted oversight. Both on-budget programs and regulations are designed to achieve policy goals, but without budgetary constraints, the American regulatory regime continues to be additive in nature and lacks incentives for retrospective evaluation of effectiveness.
July 01, 2015
By Ana Maria Zarate Moreno
On June 18, five experts shared their views on the proper scope of BCA, how to improve this tool, and the role Congress and the Courts should play in the rulemaking process. This commentary presents the proposals and challenges identified in the “Costs and Benefits vs. Smoke and Mirrors” panel of the Federalist Society’s Third Annual Executive Branch Review Conference,
June 30, 2015
By Susan E. Dudley
On June 29, SCOTUS ruled that "EPA interpreted [the Clean Air Act] unreasonably when it deemed cost irrelevant to the decision to regulate power plants." In this commentary, Dudley examines the opinion of the Court, and explains how this ruling is a victory for common-sense regulations and American consumers.
June 19, 2015
By Susan E. Dudley, Director
On June 18, a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators introduced the Independent Agency Regulatory Analysis Act which would require independent Federal regulatory agencies (such as the FCC, SEC, & CPSC) to be held to the same analytical and oversight standards as executive agencies. In this commentary, Dudley explains how this piece of legislation is a positive step towards good governance.
June 17, 2015
By Brian Mannix
The spirited Point-Counterpoint debate between Cass Sunstein & Hunt Allcott and Mannix & Dudley argued the question of using “internalities” (aka “private benefits”) to justify government regulation of energy efficiency in appliances. In this commentary, Mannix argues that the model espoused by Sunstein and Allcott only works because it assumes there are no rational consumers, giving the government a monopoly on rationality.
May 22, 2015
By Sofie E. Miller
On the Thursday before the Memorial Day holiday weekend, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs released its semiannual Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions, which provides the public with a first glimpse at upcoming regulations. The Spring 2015 Agenda lists 1,054 final rules and 1,171 proposed rules on which agencies will take action within the coming year. Of these active regulatory actions, 140 are "economically significant."
May 19, 2015
By Susan E. Dudley & Melinda Warren
Every year, Susan Dudley and Melinda Warren examine the on-budget costs of regulation by examining the portion of the Budget of the United States devoted to developing and enforcing federal regulations. In this year's report, Dudley and Warren find that the regulators’ budget is growing at approximately the same pace as the overall Budget, 5.3 percent in real (inflation-adjusted) terms in FY 2016 and 4.3 percent in FY 2015. The President’s proposed budget for the regulatory activities tracked here is $66.8 billion in FY 2016. Some of the largest increases reflect Presidential priorities, such as financial market reform and immigration reform.
April 29, 2015
By Lindsay M. Scherber
In a series of investigative articles published earlier this year, Government Executive correspondents Kellie Lunney and Eric Katz explore the often discussed, but little understood, topic of federal human resources policy. Focusing on the federal government’s perplexing hiring and firing procedures, the authors shed light on the opaque web of barriers confronting government managers as they seek to recruit qualified candidates for job vacancies and fire underperforming employees who engage in misconduct or fail to meet their job requirements.
April 21, 2015
By Gerald Brock
The Federal Communication Commission's (FCC's) recent order imposing common carrier and net neutrality obligations on broadband Internet access providers creates a complex new regulatory structure. The rule creates a vague property right in the existing arrangements and creates an incentive to continue with the existing arrangements rather than to experiment with new ideas. Trying something new creates regulatory risk in addition to the normal market risk associated with innovation. In this way, net neutrality could reduce the incentive to innovate in favor of continuing approved practices from the past.
April 08, 2015
By Louis Anthony (Tony) Cox, Jr.
In revisiting the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone, EPA recently concluded that current standards do not fully suffice to protect public health with an adequate margin of safety and that further reductions would probably further reduce mortalities and morbidities in the population. Central to this conclusion is EPA's determination that "O3 exposures are causally related to respiratory effects, and likely causally related to cardiovascular effects, and that long term O3 exposures are likely causally related to respiratory effects." Remarkably, this key conclusion is not supported by any reliable, objective statistical tests for potential causality. It rests solely on the subjective judgments of selected experts, applied to associational data that show that both ozone levels and adverse health effects are higher in some times and places than in others.
April 01, 2015
By Blake Taylor
Last December, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau proposed rules intending to improve consumers’ understanding of their choices in the prepaid debit card market and to protect them from unreasonable fees. There is little to no evidence that the proposal will have desirable consequences related to either consumer or seller behavior. What is likely is that the rule will increased compliance burdens for sellers and limit consumer choice.
March 31, 2015
By Susan E. Dudley
The Supreme Court last week heard oral arguments in Michigan v EPA regarding “whether the Environmental Protection Agency unreasonably refused to consider costs in determining whether it is appropriate to regulate hazardous air pollutants emitted by electric utilities.” The regulation being considered is a key part of the Obama administration’s environmental agenda and would require coal-fired power plant operators to install equipment to reduce mercury and other air pollutants. Section 112 of the Clean Air Act directs the EPA to issue regulations that are “appropriate and necessary” to control hazardous air pollutants, including mercury. Thus, one area of debate is whether a standard that imposes very large costs relative to benefits is “appropriate” under the meaning of the statute.
February 17, 2015
By Susan E. Dudley
There are now more than 70 federal agencies, employing almost 300,000 people, that write and implement regulations. Every year, they issue tens of thousands of new regulations, which now occupy over 175,000 pages of code. Concerns over the accountability of what some have called the "fourth branch" of government have led all three branches of government to take steps to exercise checks and balances. Like the bipartisan regulatory reform efforts of the 1970s and 1980s, reforms today could spur economic growth and improve the welfare of American families, workers and entrepreneurs.
February 03, 2015
By Sofie E. Miller
We're all affected by regulations; they change our circumstances and the choices that are available. Regulations have benefits and costs, but often the people who benefit from regulations aren’t the same people who bear the costs. Unfortunately, for many regulations, the costs are borne by America's poorest households. Our research at the George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center has identified at least three ways in which regulations disparately impact the poor: through upfront costs that may not be offset by long-term savings, by increasing commodity prices, and by over-regulating risks.
December 30, 2014
This commentary highlights ten important final rules U.S. federal agencies issued in 2014, from the Volcker Rule to Tier 3 and everything in between. Although the agencies predict each rule will offer substantial public benefits, each rule also has considerable expected costs, some of which outweigh the benefits.
December 09, 2014
What effect do regulations have on economic growth and well-being? In the United States, there is growing concern that our regulatory system has gone beyond the rules needed for an efficient, competitive market. Because of this concern, fundamental change is needed, the foundation of which must be greater humility. Without a counterfactual, it is impossible to know what a more restrained regulatory environment would have meant for economic growth and well-being, but available evidence suggests that the benefits of a simpler regulatory system that is targeted at problems that cannot be solved by other means could have enormous benefits for us and future generations.
December 01, 2014
Regulatory systems that "promote competitive markets, secure property rights, and intervene to correct market failures rather than to increase state influence" are not only more conducive to greater economic growth and public welfare within countries, but they can support international trade and investment. As our economies become more global, and the EU and U.S. work to reduce tariffs and explicit trade barriers, regulations are emerging as more important and significant barriers to trade. Not only can poorly designed or conflicting regulations inhibit transatlantic trade and investment, but differences in regulatory policy and procedural approaches may continue to challenge economic partnerships between the EU and U.S. The success of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) thus depends on strengthening EU-U.S. regulatory coherence, and reducing regulatory barriers to transatlantic trade and investment.
November 24, 2014
The Fall 2014 Unified Agenda identifies 3,415 regulatory actions at different stages of development. Of these, 629 have recently been completed, and 465 are long-term. The Agenda classifies the remaining 2,321 as active regulatory actions. Interestingly, of the 599 regulatory actions listed in the Agenda for the very first time, over 40 percent are listed as Final or Completed rules, of which 11 were economically significant. This means the public didn't get notice of the rules in the Unified Agenda until it was too late to participate in the rulemaking process, even for rules that would incur more than $100 million annually in costs or benefits. This finding is consistent with our analysis of the Spring 2013 Unified Agenda, indicating a troubling pattern of lack of agency notice that could inhibit public participation. The fact that more than 40 percent of all first-time listed regulatory actions were already finalized or completed means that the public wasn't given appropriate notice of regulators' intentions, and likely had little chance to participate in the rulemaking process.
November 17, 2014
In today's competitive economy, internships have become an increasingly integral—and even necessary—part of most students' efforts to prepare for the workforce. For those of us looking to pursue a career in public service, however, one critical employer has been noticeably absent from the intern-hiring trend: the federal government. But thanks to the government's relatively new Pathways Programs, current students and recent graduates may now find it a little easier to land a full-time job in the federal government. Pathways is designed to "promote employment opportunities for students and recent graduates in the Federal workforce," through three individual programs, each of which provides for the possibility of full-time employment upon successful completion.
September 25, 2014
Although there are well known benefits associated with public participation during the pre-promulgation stage, interim final rulemaking represents an important mechanism through which agencies can respond to exigent circumstances, such as natural disasters or impending statutory or judicial deadlines, much more expediently than would otherwise be possible. To evaluate whether IFRs have become more common in recent years or otherwise exhibit clear trends of interest, we examined OIRA’s executive order review data on all significant final rules published by executive branch agencies between 1994 and 2013. While there is no clear directional trend over time, on average, IFRs represent 20.3% of all significant final rules published during the period in question.
New Study Finds Federal Regulation Costs Over $2 Trillion Per Year and Disproportionately Affects Small Businesses
September 10, 2014
The costs of regulation, both individually and in the aggregate, are notoriously hard to measure. Unlike the direct costs of government programs, which are tracked through the fiscal budget, there is no mechanism for keeping track of the off-budget costs imposed by regulation. Thus, to get a clearer picture of the impact of regulations, it is important to examine those impacts through different lenses using different measurement tools, even though none of those approaches is perfect.
August 26, 2014
An interesting new paper from the Mercatus Center, “The Legacy of the Council on Wage and Price Stability”, takes an instructive look back at the origins of centralized review of federal regulations. While the President has always had the authority to supervise executive branch regulatory actions, there were few formal procedures, and no dedicated professional staff within the Executive Office of the President, until the creation of the Council on Wage and Price Stability (CWPS) in 1974.
August 18, 2014
Since the recent global financial crisis, there has been a tectonic shift in the policy world towards more onerous regulation of the banking sector, primarily, though not exclusively, through the Dodd-Frank Act. Bank regulators not only have more power given to them through Congress, but also from the increase in power of the Federal Reserve and the other major banking regulators in the U.S (OCC, FDIC, etc.). At the same time, there has been widespread acknowledgement that incentives were at the core of the problem leading up to the financial crisis, but little actual research on what those underlying incentive problems were and how they may be resolved.
July 18, 2014
Through its Regulatory Burden Request for Information (RFI), DOE is seeking comment from the public on how to effectively review its existing regulations, pursuant to Executive Order 13563. In response to this RFI, we filed a comment offering three recommendations to DOE to further its retrospective review efforts.First, DOE should incorporate plans for retrospective review into its economically significant or major rules. Second, DOE should allow enough time between its energy efficiency standards to allow for an effective review of each rule’s effects before issuing updated rules. Third, DOE should use the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index to measure whether its existing energy efficiency standards have had negative effects on competition in the regulated industries.
July 15, 2014
Each year we examine the President’s proposed Budget of the United States to identify the outlays and staffing devoted to developing and enforcing federal regulations. This “regulators’ budget” report covers agencies whose regulations primarily affect private-sector activities, and expressly excludes budget and staffing associated with regulations that govern taxation, entitlement, procurement, subsidy, and credit functions. This year’s analysis also documents some interesting long-term shifts in regulatory spending patterns, including a trend in which overall outlays devoted to economic regulatory activities, including price, quality, and entry regulation, are increasing at a faster rate than those aimed at social regulatory activities, such as environmental, safety and health issues. This reverses a trend that began in the 1970s away from economic regulation of private-sector activities. This is worth watching because economic theory and empirical evidence suggest that the costs of economic types of regulation often outweigh the benefits.
July 08, 2014
The Food and Drug Administration's proposed a rule would deem e-cigarettes (and possibly cigars) to be subject to tobacco product requirements such as ingredient listing, pre-market clearance, free sampling prohibition, minimum age requirement, and limit on sales by vending machines, as well as required health and addiction warning statements. The rule is intended to improve health outcomes by reducing the number of youths and young adults who are exposed to e-cigarettes and cigars. However, there are limited data on the actual impact of e-cigarettes and cigars on health outcomes and addiction patterns. Naturally, there are many unknowns in the proposal, in particular, a lack of evidence specifically about differentiated public health impacts of various tobacco products and of baseline usage patterns and risks. Given the uncertainty and inherent complexity of a regulation such as this one, it is paramount to ensure that the rule is written in a way that allows ex post feedback on whether intended goals have been reached.
June 18, 2014
FDA's proposed Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food rule is intended to ensure that food will not become contaminated during the transportation process. Although the rule will cost businesses hundreds of millions of dollars, FDA could not identify any tangible benefits that will result from the regulation. Given the uncertainty of the underlying data used to formulate the provisions of the rule, it is far from clear that the rule will have its intended effect. FDA should commit to using the data it collects during the implementation of the rule to annually review whether the standards are having their desired effect. If the rule is creating unnecessary costs without producing any tangible benefits, some or all of the regulations implemented by FDA could be rescinded.
June 11, 2014
Recent assessments of climate change policies have shifted from a domestic to a worldwide benefits approach, leading to a substantial increase in the estimated benefits. Examination of the justification of benefits assessments for GHG emission reductions suggests that government officials have gone outside the typical practice for defining the scope of benefits assessment. The justifications offered by the Interagency Working Group on Social Cost of Carbon offer weak justification for this approach. Our review suggests more convincing justification in which explicit reciprocity would justify giving economic standing to citizens of other countries and demonstrable feelings of altruism would justify partial economic standing to citizens of other countries.
June 03, 2014
Over the weekend, the Office Management and Budget (OMB) released its annual Draft Report to Congress on the Benefits and Costs of Federal Regulations (“the Report”), which provides a window into regulatory activity conducted by federal agencies in Fiscal Year 2013. The Report indicates that the new regulations issued last fiscal year involve lower annual costs and benefits than in FY 2012, and that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is by far the largest contributor to both regulatory costs and benefits in this Report.
May 29, 2014
OMB recently released its semiannual Unified Agenda listing the ongoing and upcoming regulations planned by agencies. The Spring 2014 Unified Agenda includes 3,348 total regulatory actions, 524 of which are appearing in the Agenda for the first time, and 197 of which are “economically significant.” The majority (71%) of the regulatory actions in the Spring Agenda are listed as “active,” of which 17% are published for the first time in this Agenda.
The Spring 2014 Unified Agenda does not differ significantly from the number of total actions listed in the previous Unified Agenda, published in Fall 2013. While there was a very slight decrease in active regulatory actions between Fall 2013 and Spring 2014, the count of total regulatory actions (including “long-term” and “completed”) increased from 3,305 to 3,348, and the number of economically significant actions and regulatory actions published for the first time also increased. However, the increase in total regulatory actions listed in the spring Agenda is entirely a result of an increase in the number of “completed” regulatory actions, which does not have any effect on regulations that the public can expect in the coming year.
May 28, 2014
In its proposed rule, the Department of Education creates standards and conditions by which Gainful Employment (GE) Programs can be eligible for title IV, HEA funding to address to market failures: asymmetric information and a negative externality. First, many GE programs are not transparent about the outcomes of students who attend these programs, which leads students to make irrational decisions about their educational investment. Second, this lack of available information for students creates a negative externality by imposing an unwanted financial burden on society from students defaulting on their Federal loans. By committing to retrospectively review the metrics stated by the Department in its proposal, and by incorporating the suggestions for improving retrospective review in its final rule, the Department of Education will earn a passing grade on their retrospective review plan.
May 21, 2014
Despite executive orders and guidance calling on agencies to plan for evaluating regulations, FMCSA's proposal does not discuss how it would do so. While some of the linkages FMCSA anticipates cannot be directly measured (e.g., will compliance with HOS regulations actually reduce driver fatigue?), the extent to which the safety benefits that FMCSA predicts transpire should be measurable with data that the agency collects regularly through roadside inspections and accident reports. Consistent with Executive Order 13563, in the preamble of its final rule, FMCSA should commit to measuring the actual results of this regulation, and specify the data and measurement tools it plans to use.
May 12, 2014
Multiple government guidelines instruct agencies to ensure that future regulations are “designed and written in ways that facilitate evaluation of their consequences and thus promote retrospective analyses and measurement of ‘actual results.’” But there is a major flaw in EPA’s proposal: the outcomes and assumptions are both self-contradictory and unmeasurable, making it difficult for the agency and the public to assess whether this policy will have the intended effect.
May 05, 2014
EPA projects that the benefits of its proposal to regulate emissions from residential wood stoves would outweigh the costs by a factor of more than 100. However, EPA’s analysis is flawed in ways that not only make these net benefit estimates suspect but violate Presidential requirements, and may undermine EPA’s determination of what reflects the “best system of emissions reduction.”
April 21, 2014
Our goal is that the GW Regulatory Studies Center’s Retrospective Review Comment Project will encourage regulators to prospectively plan for lookbacks, and provide constructive recommendations to agencies on how to best structure their proposed rules to accomplish these objectives.
April 14, 2014
In this commentary, Brian Mannix concludes that randomizing buffers, and other technical improvements that mitigate high-frequency trading, will emerge and compete successfully such that regulation is unnecessary.
April 07, 2014
For decades, a central question in rulemaking has been the extent to which public comments on proposed rules affect the substance of agency regulations. Do public comments really matter?
April 01, 2014
Centralized review of federal regulations by the Executive Office of the President has long been a feature of the U.S. regulatory system.
March 24, 2014
The World Economic Forum ranks Australia 128th in the world in terms of the burden of government regulation, noting “the business community cites labor regulations and bureaucratic red tape as being, respectively, the first and second most problematic factor for doing business in their country.”
March 19, 2014
Jason & Susan Yackee engage in an empirical study and claim to find relatively weak evidence that ossification is neither a serious or widespread problem.
March 10, 2014
This past Friday’s jobs report contained mixed news.
March 04, 2014
In remarks on February 18, President Obama announced fuel efficiency standards for new vehicles, referred to as Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards (CAFE standards). The standards, which will be proposed in March, 2015, would require new medium- and heavy-duty trucks to meet “ambitious” (but as-of-yet unspecified) new goals for fuel economy.
February 24, 2014
The 113th Congress is currently considering 33 bills to change the way that federal agencies develop, analyze, and review federal regulations. The changes at issue would force agencies to go through more steps each time they write a regulation – including getting Congressional approval, doing more economic analysis, and soliciting additional public input.
February 18, 2014
Last week, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) published a final rule setting up a tax penalty—termed an “assessable payment”—for businesses whose employees purchase health insurance through an Exchange using a federal subsidy.
February 11, 2014
The 113th Congress is considering various bills that would reform the way regulations are developed, analyzed, and reviewed. The GW Regulatory Studies Center has tracked and classified these bills since the beginning of the 113th Congress and will continue tracking and updating the information regularly throughout its duration.