Time for Government to Slim Down
On January 18, 2011, President Obama ordered that each federal agency lay out a plan to lose some regulatory weight. Executive Order 13563 required federal agencies to periodically review the rules and repeal programs that are ineffective or overly burdensome. Under Obama’s executive order, The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) was tasked with receiving the plans for regulation elimination. President Clinton had already issued an executive order making OIRA responsible for reviewing all significant regulatory actions before they become law.
Six years after Obama’s regulatory diet order, former OMB director, Shaun Donovan, proclaimed success. According to his January 5, 2017, cabinet exit memo, this program was a “hallmark of this Administration’s commitment to a transparent and accountable regulatory process.” As a result of Obama’s order, federal agencies completed over 800 retrospective reviews and eliminated over 70 notable regulations. Director Donovan encouraged the Trump administration “to continue this effort, pursuing a thoughtful and data-driven approach to assessing regulations that are currently on the books.”
I wholeheartedly concur that the federal agencies need to lose some excessive regulatory heft. However, I completely disagree that Obama’s order was a success. The elimination of only 70 “significant” regulations in 6 years is pathetic. During Obama’s presidency, the federal agencies added over 3,500 regulations yearly. Of these 3,500 regulations, OIRA would review between 400-800 “significant rules.” This means that for every significant regulation that was eliminated under Obama’s watch, the federal agencies added at least 40 new significant rules. Not a great ratio, to say the least. This does not factor in the thousands of regulations that the bureaucracy does not think are “significant”.
Let’s imagine each federal agency as a 450-pound obese individual. The overweight individual eats in excess of a 5,000 calorie diet while burning fewer than 2,500 calories. Knowing that they need to lose weight, the patient studies his caloric intake. As a result, he decides to eat only 4,800 calories daily. It doesn’t take a doctor to know that calorie counting is not enough!
The Obama’s regulatory diet failed for two reasons. First, the federal agencies were responsible for creating their own reduction plan. Second, the accountability for losing weight was given to those who had demonstrated a complete lack of understanding as to what led to their obesity in the first place.
Self-introspection is a specialty of neither federal agencies nor weight loss patients. If you put our proverbial 450-pound individual around a bunch of overweight people, there will be no motivation to lose weight. Instead, he probably needs to hire a coach to develop a customized weight loss plan for him. He has proven that being left to his own devises has not worked. He needs positive outside influences to help change his lifestyle. And so it is with the federal government.
President Obama did not create the obesity epidemic among federal agencies. They have packed on pounds over the years. President Trump recognizes this problem which is why on January 31, 2017, he ordered that for every regulation issued, two must be eliminated. This is akin to saying that the obesity patient must burn twice as many calories as he consumes daily.
Coach Trump has established a very ambitious goal to help the federal agencies slim down. However, he and OIRA need to work together to go one step further. Telling federal agencies to burn two calories for every one calorie consumed is not enough. After all, not all calories are created equal. An obese individual could eat a 1,500 calorie diet consisting entirely of candy bars. He might lose weight, but he won’t become healthy, and he won’t keep off the pounds for long. He also needs nutritional coaching.
Nor are all regulations created equal. A federal agency could easily remove two very minor rules (e.g. the requirement that airline employees must show passengers how to buckle their seat belts) and institute a regulation with a massive impact on small businesses. This is why OIRA must score the regulations removed and make sure that the two discarded regulations each exceed the score of the added one.
Since federal agencies live and work within the beltway, they do not fully understand the impact that their rules have upon the average small business. It is necessary that the decision as to which regulations are eliminated be removed from the federal agencies. OIRA should be tasked with setting up meetings throughout the entire United States to listen to Americans as to which regulations need to be eliminated. There should be hearings with dairy farmers in Wisconsin, ranchers in Texas, travel experts in Hawaii, technology experts in California, doctors in Florida, etc.
We live in a republic, which means that we are to be a self-governing people. We the People have been responding to the regulations propounded by the federal agencies. We the People must tell them which regulations are burdensome and need to be eliminated. OIRA is already tasked with the duties of reviewing federal regulations. They should take on the added responsibility of guiding the agencies through their weight loss plan. Federal agencies will still be responsible for following the laws to properly re-write burdensome regulations or eliminate them all together.
President Obama’s 800 regulation retrospect reviews and 70 regulation eliminations is a start. We the People should thank Obama for recognizing that the federal agencies are over-weight. However, as Ronald Reagan said, “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”
The bureaucrats had their chance to solve their own weight problem. Now the president should task OIRA with investigating and enforcing a strict regulatory diet.
Mark Meuser is a seasoned trial attorney. In 2016, he was a paid staffer for Cruz for President. He also was involved in the presidential recounts in both Wisconsin and Michigan. You can follow him at @MarkMeuser.