President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Friday to place "regulatory reform" task forces and officers within federal agencies in what may be the most far reaching effort to pare back U.S. red tape in recent decades.


The sweeping order directs every federal agency to establish a task force to ensure each has a team to research all regulations and take aim at those deemed burdensome to the U.S. economy and designate regulatory reform officers within 60 days and must report on the progress within 90 days.

"Excessive regulation is killing jobs, driving companies out of our country like never before," Trump said before signing the order. "Every regulation should have to pass a simple test; does it make life better or safer for American workers or consumers?"''

We like the spirit behind this, and think it's a good idea to have a dedicated officer within each agency who is independent and is focusing on regulatory efficiency (kind of like the inspectors general system). However, Trump's remarks shows he doesn't really understand what the problem is -- the issue isn't that we aren't already taking enough time to weigh new regulations, get feedback from all sides, and weigh the pro's and con's (we already do this -- agonizingly-so): the real problem is that there's no compulsory force to cut through all the opposing interests and impose the optimal outcome based on the benefit to the general public (or whoever the intended stakeholders are). Instead, the preferences of the most powerful/vocal lobbies (or secondarily, the agency staff themselves) dominate. It isn't clear how yet ANOTHER monitor (we already have the GAO and CBO and CRS) is going to "right" the system. Generally, these oversight agencies already do amazing work -- it's just that "no one listens to them" (i.e., they have no power over the political process).

Thus, we don't expect this to work: while it might help in some cases for a while by adding some useful information to the public debate over particular regulations, it will likely just become another politicized facility that will become integrated into the DC sausage factory. Remember, the laws are being mandated by Congress in the first place, and the President can't simply refuse to implement them -- even if someone's analysis shows there's overall more cost than benefit.

To really make any meaningful, sustainable progress on this front, you'd need a law that puts enforcement behind the cost-benefit analysis of all future laws, and regulations implementing them; i.e., regulations can only be implemented if they can be done at a net benefit, and laws can only go into effect if their regulations can be implemented thusly (and this would be reviewed periodically over time, since you can't always tell from the outset). In essence, give the GAO's (and other oversight organizations) analyses some actual TEETH.

So, unfortunately, this just demonstrates another case where it is clear that Trump's people simply don't know how things already work, and what's already in place. You have to know what, in specific, is broken, to fix it. Oh, and you might have to actually work with Congress to get them to surrender some of their arbitrary power...

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