When Regulations Are More Trouble Than They’re Worth

While the recent Republican debates have sparked lively discussions of tax and spending problems, many candidates have also highlighted the economic drag of regulation. This is important: Regulations have an annual cost of more than $1 trillion and have a significant impact on investment, innovation and economic growth. Rather than shackling the economy with new ones, Washington should conduct a comprehensive review of the regulatory burden with an eye towards eliminating redundant and obsolete mandates.

So what do the candidates propose to do? All have called for cuts in regulation and ensuring that the benefits exceed their costs. Many White House contenders have also insisted on the elimination of various agencies in an attempt to reduce the influence of the bureaucracy and its regulators–Texas Senator Ted Cruz said, if elected, he would get rid of the IRS and the Department of Education, among others. (Cruz is pushing for a federal hiring freeze as well.) And there have been demands for the repeal of onerous regulations issued by President Barack Obama, from Obamacare to a host of new EPA rules.

More consensus: The REINS Act should be passed. This legislation would require agencies to submit all economically significant regulations to Congress for an up or down vote before they can be enforced. Currently, Congress can take credit for passing sweeping and feel-good sounding legislation such as the Clean Air Act while bearing no blame for the regulatory nightmare that ensues. The REINS Act forces these elected officials, rather than unelected civil servants, to take responsibility for their outcomes.

Some of the candidates have moved beyond generalities to more specific solutions. One option championed by Marco Rubio is the creation of a regulatory budget. By essentially setting a cap for the costs of each agency’s regulations, this would address the new layers of rules piled on year after year without any sense of their cumulative effects.