Bush League De-Regulation?

Yesterday Jeb Bush took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to outline what he would do to attack overregulation if he becomes president. He rightly calls it “the regulation tax,” and cites good scholarship on the enormous toll regulation is taking on economic growth. Indeed I think regulatory reform is more important than tax reform, though they are not mutually exclusive—so why not both?


It’s time we did a better job regulating the regulators. My goal as president would be to find and retire the rules that are posing a major obstacle to people who want to get a job, start a business, move up the income ladder or do anything else that contributes to the prosperity of this nation. If elected president, I will use my executive authority to direct agencies to create one dollar of regulatory savings for each new dollar of regulatory cost they propose. We will eliminate and reform outdated and burdensome rules and, when necessary, work with Congress and the courts to overcome legal obstacles that stand in the way of sensible savings.

My administration will create a commission charged with reviewing regulations from the perspective of the regulated and shifting more power from Congress back to states. In my administration, every regulation, including those issued by so-called independent agencies such as the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, will have to satisfy a rigorous White House review process, including a cost-benefit analysis. Regulations will be issued only if they address a major market or policy failure. Regulators will be directed to favor private and state-driven solutions unless it is clear that federal intervention is necessary and appropriate. . .

As early as possible, I promise to roll back many of the most reckless and damaging rules promulgated under President Obama. As president, I will repeal the Environmental Protection Agency’s new rule extending federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act over millions of acres of private land, its new regulation of carbon dioxide under the Clean Power Plan, and its new and costly coal-ash standards for power plants. I will also work to repeal the so-called net-neutrality rule forced on the Federal Communications Commission by the White House and the Department of Education’s “gainful employment” rule that punishes for-profit colleges. That’s for starters.

These are all fine steps. But do they go far enough? No. There is no suggestion of fundamentally reining in the enormous power of independent agencies to issue regulations in the first place. More White House review of costs and benefits is insufficient. Bush conspicuously omits endorsing the REINS Act*, which would require both houses of Congress to vote on every regulation that would impose over $100 million in costs. If REINS were in place today, many of the Obama Administration’s big regulations that Bush mentions would have failed. This is a deep constitutional deformation that has grown up by degrees over the last 75 years. Bush’s changes, while salutary, would do nothing to prevent a future president (Chelsea Clinton? George P. Bush?) from getting right back in the executive branch regulation business.

This is another sign that Bush, as good as he is in many ways, is not good enough. He doesn’t get the full depths of the problem. Like his dad and older brother.

* REINS stands for “Regulations from the Executive In Need of Scrutiny.”