Neomi Rao is administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Office of Management and Budget.
The administration’s regulatory reform efforts continue to accelerate, as new data released by the administration Wednesday on regulatory reform in 2018 show. As this fall’s unified regulatory agenda demonstrates, we’re projecting even more reform in 2019.
Over the past two years, federal agencies have reduced regulatory costs by $23 billion and eliminated hundreds of burdensome regulations, creating opportunities for economic growth and development. This represents a fundamental change in the direction of the administrative state, which, with few exceptions, has remained unchecked for decades. The Obama administration imposed more than $245 billion in regulatory costs on American businesses and families during its first two years.
The benefits of deregulation are felt far and wide, from lower consumer prices to more jobs and, in the long run, improvements to quality of life from access to innovative products and services. Eliminating unnecessary and duplicative red tape has helped the Trump administration achieve the lowest unemployment rates in nearly 50 years and dramatic economic growth for our country.
The administration’s reform agenda focuses on unleashing the freedom of American workers, innovators and businesses. We are pushing back the expansion of the administrative state, which has too often imposed immense regulatory costs without any benefit. At the same time, we work with agencies to meet the regulatory responsibilities Congress has required. Agencies now focus on developing common-sense regulatory policies that work for the American people by protecting health and safety while minimizing costly, unnecessary burdens.
As Learned Hand, one of America’s great judges, said: “The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right.” Our government of limited powers is committed to individual liberty and protected by checks and balances that recognize it can be difficult to get things right. The Constitution leaves most decisions to states, local governments, religious and civic organizations, and individual Americans. The lawmaking process requires agreement among the House, Senate and president, representing a broad swath of the American people. Regulation essentially functions as lawmaking without the checks provided by a representative Congress, and it can be challenging to know whether a regulation benefits the broader public or a particular interest group or ideology. Humility about government intervention protects the spirit of liberty that animates our productive and innovative society.
When reviewing regulations, we start with a simple question: What is the problem this regulation is trying to fix? Unless otherwise required by law, we move forward only when we can identify a serious problem or market failure that would be best addressed by federal regulation. These bipartisan principles were articulated by President Ronald Reagan and reaffirmed by President Bill Clinton, who recognized that “the private sector and private markets are the best engine for economic growth.”
This administration adheres to these principles and has particularly focused on reinforcing the rule of law when setting regulatory policy. Agencies across the federal government must realize that they do not possess the authority to create laws; they simply enforce the laws Congress has passed and the president has signed. The administration also aims to restore greater transparency and respect for the constitutional values of due process and fair notice. This includes limiting the improper use of guidance documents. Agencies should not impose new obligations on the public in a news release, blog post or speech, but instead must use statutory rulemaking procedures that provide public notice and an opportunity for comments.
Our commitment to these good regulatory practices has contributed to the incredible economic boom since President Trump took office. Across America, businesses and families are experiencing greater economic freedom, and we project even more significant results in the coming year.