More than a dozen economists -- many of whom had spearheaded the regulatory reform drive over the past few years--criticized the Reagan administration yesterday for not moving fast enough or far enough to reduce federal red tape and paperwork.
In all agencies of government, from the Environmental Protection Agency to the Interstate Commerce Commission, administration officials have missed good opportunities to make significant cuts in government rules, the reform advocates charged.
The charges, made during the American Enterprise Institute's annual seminar on regulatory reform, were rather surprising because several of yesterday's critics advised Reagan on regulatory policy shortly after he was elected president. What's more, several former members of the conservative think tank are now the administration's top regulatory officials.
Despite these connections, it was clear that the economists were disappointed with the administration's efforts so far to live up to Reagan's campaign pledge to reduce the regulatory burden.
The Environmental Protection Agency "has blown a very good opportunity to do something in the environmental area thus far," charged Robert W. Crandall, a senior fellow of the Brookings Institution who also served on Reagan's regulatory-reform task force.
"There have been virtually no accomplishments," Crandall said. "I frankly don't see much hope" over the next two years, he added. Crandall and others said the reason was that the EPA's actions have become so politicized under its new head, Ann M. Gorsuch, that it is doubtful the agency will be able to garner support to reform its rules and rewrite the Clean Air Act.
Meanwhile, in the airline and trucking industries, there has been some movement--but in the wrong direction, transportation expert Thomas Gale Moore noted.
Moore, also a member of Reagan's transition team, said the strike by air traffic controllers has led to a reregulation of the deregulated airline industry. "The secretary of Transportation, Drew Lewis, is a new regulator of entry into the airline industry," allocating landing and take-off rights at crowded airports to new airlines that want to enter the business.
But, Moore added, "Where we really have to worry is in the area of surface freight transportation," where ICC Chairman Reese Taylor has "been backwatering" the trucking deregulation legislation enacted last year, making it harder for new firms to enter the business
W. Kip Viscusi, director of Duke University's Center for the Study of Business Regulation, charged there was "no clear vision for regulatory reform" at the health and safety agencies. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration, for example, has given too much attention to safety rules rather than the more onerous health rules, Viscusi charged.
The Federal Communications Commission also came under attack from Henry Geller, the top telecommunications adviser to former president Carter. Although praising the new chairman, Mark S. Fowler, who has moved to loosen many rules on the broadcasting industry, Geller attacked the FCC's reversal of an earlier decision that would have added at least 400 AM-radio stations.