by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Overregulation has turned the United States into something of a leaky boat. Instead of taking on water, we’re taking on regulatory burden—and losing potential growth. The buildup of regulatory burden in the United States has been estimated to slow economic growth by nearly 1% per year. That adds up to trillions of dollars of growth that could have been achieved but wasn’t.
Now, if your boat is taking on water, the first thing you do is stop the leaks—and fortunately, that seems to be the logic of the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act of 2023, or the REINS Act. Under the act, any new regulation that would have an economic impact of $100 million or more would require congressional approval. Since 2009, several versions of the REINS Act have come before Congress, but now, the bill seems poised to pass the House.
Regulatory reform is much needed, and on that, REINS is a good start. But it is just that—a start. More needs to be done to control runaway regulation. REINS is an important step in the right direction, but without additional modifications to the regulatory process, we should expect the regulatory state to continue to expand in size and scope, to the detriment of economic growth.
A good first question to ask when we think about regulatory reform is who’s responsible for regulating. And in answering that question, we reveal a big wrinkle in the lawmaking process: Congress has largely abdicated responsibility for lawmaking, to the point where the nation’s most significant policy choices and value judgments are made by regulators, not by Congress. Modern governance in Washington is dominated by regulatory agencies authorized under vague and open-ended statutes, primarily under the control of the White House, and with little effectual oversight by Congress.