Economics, Regulation

New Regulatory Reform Ordered: Shhhhh…

In January, President Obama ordered a regulatory review of more than two dozen government agencies, the results of which were unveiled by regulatory czar Cass Sunstein here at AEI in May. Yesterday, Obama “took the next step in his ambitious and unprecedentedly open process for streamlining, improving, and eliminating regulations,” in the words of Sunstein on the White House blog, with an executive order asking independent regulatory agencies, including the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Communications Commission, and the Securities and Exchange Commission, to take their own reform steps.

“In a historic initiative, the President has requested the independent agencies to produce plans to reassess and to streamline their existing regulations, and to disclose those plans for public scrutiny,” Sunstein wrote. “In addition, the President has asked the independent agencies to follow the cost-saving, burden-reducing principles in his January Executive Order on improving regulation.”

“Public scrutiny” seems to be subjective. The May 26 proposals were posted online, in a special forum on WhiteHouse.gov, with links by department to Slideshare pages and an invitation to “read the agency plans and share your comments, feedback and questions.” The day after the White House unveiling, I checked the proposals and saw that comments were closed and at zero on every one, suggesting comments had never been active. An oversight, perhaps, as we’re all cursed with technical gremlins from time to time.

However, I checked back today and comments were still closed and at zero on every proposal. The number of views had risen, some had been favorited, some got tweets and Facebook likes. But does a Facebook “like” count as public scrutiny? Maybe for Lady Gaga, but for sweeping regulatory reform?

Reg reform… it’s a lonely, lonely business.

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