Political Discourse Includes Regulatory Reform

November 19, 2015

While writing America’s laws falls in the wheelhouse of Congress, writing America’s regulations falls under the purview of executive branch agencies accountable to the president.  This means, 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. 

Decoding the ‘stump’ speech

Candidates are talking about regulation and regulatory reform in their speeches and debates.  During the November 10th GOP debate on the economy, in particular, candidates addressed regulatory reform more than in either party’s other debates.  While we won’t suggest that a debate stump speech is a comprehensive plan for regulatory reform, it is a sign that the subject is becoming a part of the nomenclature of the candidates.  And for the next President of the United States, the subject of regulation is just the beginning of a conversation that may shape her or his legacy.

This commentary provides a brief review of what the 2016 presidential candidates have to say about regulatory reform.

Democratic candidates largely focus on financial regulatory reform

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who also served as Senator from New York representing Wall Street, released her financial regulatory plan on October 8, just before the first Democratic debate.  Her plan includes giving regulators more authority to intervene and to strengthen Dodd-Frank

Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley has also taken issue publicly with Wall Street, notably in an open letter to “Wall Street Megabanks.”  His big regulatory push in the first Democratic debate was his promise to reinstate Glass-Steagall.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has unapologetically called Wall Street’s business model “greed and fraud.” His plan for financial regulatory reform is to break up the ‘too big to fail’ banks.  In one of the most buzzed about lines during the first Democratic debate on October 13th, Sanders said, “Congress does not regulate Wall Street. Wall Street regulates Congress.”

More GOP voices means a variety of ideas on regulatory reform

Since Republicans in the race for president outnumber the Democrats by nearly five-to-one, for purposes of this commentary, we will focus only on those Republican candidates who’ve made substantive comments about regulation.

In the fourth GOP debate, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush declared his intention to repeal every single rule that’s a “work in progress.”  He also listed several of the president’s regulations he would repeal including the Clean Power Plan, Waters of the United States (WOTUS), net neutrality and any rules that have economic costs that “far exceed the social benefit.”  Bush laid out his regulatory reform plan in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed.

Neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson commented during the fourth GOP debate that large financial institutions shouldn’t enlarge themselves “at the expense of smaller entities.” He also said that “every single regulation costs money” and pointed to the effects regulations are having on the poor and middle class.

In the undercard GOP debate on November 10th, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was critical of Dodd-Frank and the “81,000 pages of new regulations” by the Obama administration.  He declared that on his first day as President, he “will sign an executive order that says no more regulation for the next 120 days by any government agency or department.”  During the third mainstage debate, Christie memorably laughed off Jeb Bush’s concerns about unregulated fantasy sports.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz has argued that minorities are harmed the most by overregulation.  He had one of the most notable lines of the fourth GOP debate when he said regulatory reform would require “pulling back the armies of regulators that have descended like locusts on small businesses.”

Businesswoman Carly Fiorina made headlines in April when she said that not ‘a single regulation’ has ever been repealed.  Susan Dudley responded to this saying that Fiorina was “generally right that regulations, once issued, are rarely revisited and even more rarely actually repealed.”  In the last debate Fiorina urged passage of the REINS Act so that “Congress is in charge of regulation, not nameless, faceless bureaucrats accountable to no one.”

While Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has been somewhat mum about regulation on the presidential campaign trail, he is the lead sponsor of the Senate bill, Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS). REINS is designed to “increase accountability for and transparency in the federal regulatory process by requiring Congress to approve all new major regulations.”  The bill has yet to be passed out of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio has advocated for a regulatory budget which would place a cap on the cost of new regulations and said he would “require federal agencies to include an analysis of exactly how each proposed regulation would impact competition and innovation.”  In the last GOP debate, Rubio was particularly critical of Dodd-Frank stating that it “actually codified too big to fail.”

What does businessman Donald Trump have to say about regulations?  “We’re going to get rid of the regulations that are just destroying us.”

Beyond the stump

Though other aspects of the candidates’ campaign platforms may garner more attention, regulation is an important topic that affects the daily lives of Americans.  We’re encouraged by the dialogue being generated on regulatory reform on and off the debate stage and are looking forward to our next president continuing the conversation.