Many warned throughout the presidential campaign that Biden would be far more extremist than he let on. Now that he’s safely in the White House, he is taking the wrappings off.
In the unprecedented flurry of President Joe Biden’s executive orders, which included the killing of thousands of American jobs and banning the term “China virus” (and which he probably didn’t read anyway), was one that was almost entirely overlooked but could easily end up having the biggest impact.
The order also seems harmless enough, going by the seemingly innocuous title “Modernizing Regulatory Review.” Except this order isn’t about modernizing regulations. It’s about unleashing the regulatory state with a ferocity never before seen in this country.
Biden’s order – which didn’t get released to the press until late in the evening of his first day – aims to effectively toss the cost-benefit analysis that for many decades has served as at least a modest brake on the ambitions of regulators. In the past, regulations where the cost of compliance far exceeded the benefits could be stymied by the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.
Biden wants the review process instead to be “a tool to affirmatively promote regulations” and “to ensure swift and effective federal action” on everything from the pandemic, to the economy, to racial inequality, to the “undeniable reality and accelerating threat of climate change.” In other words … everything.
Clyde Wayne Crews, a regulation expert at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, said that Biden’s order is “likely to do away with cost-benefit analysis by elevating unquantifiable aims as benefits and deny costs of regulation altogether.” In doing so, it will “put weight on the scales of whether or not to regulate such that the answer will always be in the affirmative.”
The leftist Huffington Post cheered the news, calling Biden’s order “game changing” and saying “the memo could unleash a wave of stronger regulations to reduce income inequality, fight climate change and protect public health. Among left-leaning experts on regulation, it’s a signal that Biden could break with 40 years of conservative policy.”
The site quoted James Goodwin, a senior policy analyst at the Center for Progressive Reform, who said “I realize what I’m about to say to you sounds absurd. It has the potential to be the most significant action Biden took on day one.”
Biden took other actions to re-regulate the economy, including issuing an order revoking various policies President Donald Trump put in place, such as the order that regulators eliminate two regulations for every new one enacted.
One of Trump’s biggest – unsung – achievements in the White House was his effort to rein in the regulatory state. A lifelong businessman, Trump understood – in a way lifelong politicians cannot – the avalanche of regulations that fall on a business and the enormous costs they impose. One of his very first actions was the two-for-one order.
CEI’s Crews says that Trump actually exceeded that goal, with agencies getting rid of 4.3 rules for every new one.
The Trump administration’s Council of Economic Advisers calculated that the deregulatory measures taken over the past four years saved households an average of $3,100 a year. And while there’s some debate over the extent of the benefits from Trump’s efforts, the undeniable fact is that he slowed the regulatory current.
Even so, the regulatory state today imposes $1.9 trillion in costs, according to CEI. That is an enormous hidden tax on families. In fact, if our regulatory state were a country, it would be bigger than Canada’s entire economy. The idea that we are getting more than $1.9 trillion in health and safety benefits from these rules is laughable.
Unfortunately, with this one executive order, Biden shows that he’s intent on giving regulators carte blanche to impose massive new rules on businesses and households, on virtually anything and everything they do, regardless of costs. There’s little else Biden has done so far that will have as wide-ranging an impact.