George Shultz and Centralized Regulatory Review

“Dr. Shultz’s prodigious inside knowledge of the U.S. government was rivaled by few figures in recent memory, and his soft-spoken, cerebral manner obscured his strong conservative views about the wisdom of keeping spending under control, limiting government regulation and vigorously confronting terrorists,”

Dr. Shultz signed the 1971 Memorandum which initiated centralized regulatory review in Executive Branch Agencies. He passed on February 6, 2021 at 100 years of age.  See this detailed account of the enormity of his contribution to the effective management of the administrative state.

A Note to Pro-Regulators: Elections Matter

With the seating of the Biden Administration Pro-Regulators are being heard in the halls of OIRA as result of three recent political appointments therein.  Elections matter because  President Biden took the helm of the presidency which includes OIRA. President Obama, as is the case with President Biden, had a number of regulatory priorities, in particular healthcare. As a result, in part, of OIRA’s emphasis on economically sound regulations as personified by the use of benefit-cost analyses, the majority of  President’s healthcare regulations are still in existence. For this reason the constant criticism by the Progressives of Professor Sunstein for acting in concert with the wishes of the President are not only inconsistent with the recognized concept of Elections Matter but is also not commensurate with the accomplishments to date of the Pro-Regulators.

The Amazing Stability of Centralized Regulatory Review!

October 2021 will mark the fiftieth year of continuous centralized regulatory review. During this time period we have witnessed the issuance of a series of landmark Executive Orders including EO 12291, EO 12886, EO 13528, EO 13563 and EO 13371. Each of the aforementioned Executive Orders are based on the two key provisions of  the original mandate for centralized regulatory review promulgated  in October 1971 which stated:

(1) Proposed and final regulations…should be submitted to the Office of Management and Budget.

(2) The regulations should be accompanied by a summary description indicating a comparison of the expected benefits or accomplishments and the costs (Federal and non-Federal) associated with the alternatives considered.

The History of OIRA: Help or Hinderance?

Subsequent to the issuance of the Executive Order on modernization of the regulatory process numerous experts have written on its impact. Many of the authors claim that the Administration is bending the rules on the conduct of benefit-cost analyses of rules and suggest that the aforementioned action dwarfs other directives in the Executive Order.   It is a safe bet that none of the aforementioned authors are familiar with the history of OIRA.

That said, is  the absence of a knowledge of the history of OIRA a handicap in interpreting  the significance of current events? Please note that OIRA became a functioning unit only after its predecessors survived the scrutiny of five consecutive Presidential Administrations, a nod to its history.

Management of the Administrative State

Will the Biden Administration address a growing weakness in OIRA oversight responsibilities, namely the management of the administrative state?  Presently management of the Administrative state has been addressed in large part by the economics and legal professions who have made noteworthy contributions. That said, neither of these profession per se had a major role in establishing the Quality of Life Review or Executive 12291, the bulwarks of centralized regulatory review.