Econ101, Ideological Blinders, and the New Head of CBO

by Daniel Farber | March 09, 2015

There are troubling indications that Keith Hall lets ideology blind him to basic economics.

Last week, in a post about the employment effect of regulations, I mentioned briefly that the new Director of the Congressional Budget Office, Keith Hall, had endorsed some questionable views on the subject.  A reader pointed me toward an additional writing that has done a lot to escalate my concerns.  There are disturbing signs about both Hall’s ideological bias and even his grasp of basic economics.

This writing was part of an exchange in the journal Risk Analysis about an excellent book on the regulation/employment issue written by Coglianese, Finkel, and Carrigan.  Here are a couple of snippets that reflect Hall’s anti-regulatory bias:

“[R]egulation-related jobs are created much in the same way that a hurricane creates jobs.”

“The important point is that more valuable economic resources—like labor hours in the preregulation world—are being used to produce less in the postregulation world.”

A little harder to distill into a soundbite, but even more disturbing, is the basic argument made in the review, which is that jobs that are lost due to regulation count as costs, but jobs that are created don’t count as countervailing gains.  Here’s a somewhat longer excerpt where Hall and his co-author make this argument:

“Jobs that are lost were created to respond to consumer demands. In this case, workers are only hired if what they are able to produce is valued by consumers more than what the workers are paid, a positive value. But it is always uncertain ...

Congress squeezes Obama's reg czar about lack of transparency

by Celeste Monforton | March 09, 2015
This blog is cross-posted from the Pump Handle.  It’s a rare thing on Capitol Hill when a member of the Administration is on the hot seat from both sides of the aisle. But that’s what happened on Tuesday when President Obama’s regulatory czar, Howard Shelanski, JD, PhD, testified at a joint hearing of two subcommittees of the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform. The Republican Chairman Mark Meadows (R-NC) and Ranking Member Gerry Connolly (D-VA)and other subcommittee members, peppered him with questions about OIRA’s lack ...

Three Quick Reactions to Yesterday's House Oversight Committee Hearing on OIRA

by James Goodwin | March 04, 2015
Yesterday, the House Oversight Committee held a hearing on “Challenges Facing OIRA in Ensuring Transparency and Effective Rulemaking” that featured as its only witness the head of the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), Administrator Howard Shelanski.   Given that regulations are a huge source of consternation on the Hill, and the prominent role that OIRA plays in the federal regulatory apparatus, oversight hearings involving OIRA always have the potential for fireworks.  Despite this potential, these hearings—which take ...

CPR's Tom McGarity in Austin-American Statesman: Public Utility Commission rule would hurt consumers

by Erin Kesler | March 03, 2015
The Texas Public Utility Commission, which sets electricity rates for the state and allows adjustments for fuel costs, has recently proposed amendments to its procedural rules that would limit consumer advocate input into potentially abusive rate changes. Prior to any rate changes, the Commission holds public hearings where experts for the utility companies present highly technical reports drawn from their own data. Representatives of consumer groups can participate in these hearings, but they typically advance consumer interests by challenging the data and assumptions presented by the industry's ...

Accounting for Job Loss -- The consequences of doing so may not be what you'd expect

by Daniel Farber | March 02, 2015
The Republicans’ choice for head of the CBO, Keith Hall, spent some time at a libertarian think tank reportedly funded by the Koch brothers, where he wrote about the effect of regulation on employment. Hall argued that regulations cause unemployment (include indirect effects because of price changes), and that the costs of unemployment should be included in regulatory cost-benefit analysis. In principle, it seems right to include the special harms associated with job loss in cost-benefit analysis (not just for regulations but everything else too).  ...

Bad Feds, Deadly Meds: Steinzor in USA Today

by Matthew Freeman | March 01, 2015
Last December, the Justice Department announced the indictiment of the owner/head pharmacist, the supervising pharmacist, and 12 others associated with the New England Compounding Compounding Center. The 131-count indictment, which included 25 charges of second-degree murder, grew out of a 2012 outbreak of fungal meningitis caused by contaminated drugs manufactured by the company. More than 750 patients were diagnosed with the illness as a result, and 64 patients in nine states died from it.  In a February 28, 2015, op-ed ...

More Fun Than Escaped Llamas: House GOP to Hold Yet Another Antiregulatory Hearing

by James Goodwin | February 27, 2015
In keeping with an apparent effort to hold an antiregulatory hearing on any and all days ending in “y,” Congressional Republicans have teed up yet another humdinger for Monday, March 2. That’s when the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Administrative law will take a closer look at three more antiregulatory bills that have been recycled from previous congresses, including the Responsibly and Professionally Invigorating Development Act of 2015 (RAPID Act), the Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and ...

What Should be Discussed at the Senate Homeland Security's Hearing on the U.S. Regulatory System (But Probably Won't)

by James Goodwin | February 24, 2015
A clock hangs in Room 342 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building—the room where tomorrow at 10:00 am the Republican leadership of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee will convene its first antiregulatory circus hearing of the new Congress.  Below that clock, the hearing will play out according to a now-familiar script:  the Republican members will cite vague constituent concerns about the regulatory system harming their families and businesses; the three industry shills invited by the majority will ...

Winning Safer Workplaces: Responsible Contracting in Maryland

by Matt Shudtz | February 24, 2015
This week, the Maryland General Assembly will review new legislation that could help ensure safer workplaces in the state’s construction industry. The proposal, which is a type of “responsible contracting” legislation similar to other policies being tested out in states and municipalities across the country, would require companies that put in bids for work on public works projects in Maryland to attest that they have workplace health and safety programs and that they would implement the programs in construction projects ...

In North Carolina, Open Season on Poverty Advocates

by Victor Flatt | February 23, 2015
Today I joined a group more than 40 environmental law professors and clinicians from institutions around the nation in a joint letter to the University of North Carolina System Board of Governors urging that they reject a recommendation to shutter the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity, housed at the University of North Carolina Law School. That unfortunate recommendation arose from a special committee created by the board at the direction of the legislature to review all 237 of the ...

Winning Safer Workplaces: Watchdogging State Agencies

by Matt Shudtz | February 19, 2015
Our intrepid colleague Celeste Monforton, who writes at the Pump Handle blog, recently passed along a neat example of a tool that we wrote about in our Winning Safer Workplaces manual. Minnesota’s Office of the Legislative Auditor released a report on the state’s regulatory protections for meatpacking workers. As we noted in the Winning Safer Workplaces manual, state-level oversight of government regulation can be a valuable tool for advocates who are fighting for stronger workplace protections. The results of new ...

But Wait, There’s Less! The GOP Has a 'Sue and Settle' Bill They Would Like to Sell You

by James Goodwin | February 17, 2015
Last week, Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) continued the parade of anti-regulatory bills resurrected from past sessions of Congress by introducing in their respective chambers the Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act of 2015 (SRDSA).  While all of these anti-regulatory bills are categorically terrible, the SRDSA really needs to be singled out for special condemnation.  After all, it is the only one of the lot that purports to take on a problem—so-called “sue and settle” ...

At Last, the Obama Administration Acknowledges Need for Urgency on Advancing Regulatory Agenda

by James Goodwin | February 13, 2015
At last, the Obama Administration is articulating a sense of urgency about moving vitally needed health and safty regulations through its pipeline. Here’s Howard Shelanski, White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, in a Bloomberg BNA story this week: “So we are working now, here in January of 2015, on getting priorities lined up, so that we do not find ourselves at some point in 2016 with really important policy priorities unexecuted,” Shelanski said. Later in the interview: Still, ...

The Age of Greed: Toxic Chemical Control Is 'High Priority' Failure for Nation’s Government

by Rena Steinzor | February 11, 2015
Today, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reiterated its conclusion that EPA’s regulation of toxic chemicals is in crisis, unable to deliver badly needed protection to the American people.  These benighted programs are among a couple of dozen of “high priority” failures that cause serious harm to public health, waste resources, or endanger national security, and Congress is giving the report red carpet treatment, with House and Senate hearings on the report scheduled the very day it was released.  In auditor ...

Department of Transportation’s Crude-by-Rail Safety Standards Keep Chugging Along

by James Goodwin | February 09, 2015
According to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs’ (OIRA) records, the Department of Transportation submitted its draft final crude-by-rail safety rule for White House review late last week.  OIRA’s review of draft final rules represents the last hurdle in what can be a long and resource-intensive rulemaking process; just about any rule of consequence cannot take effect without OIRA’s final approval.  Once completed, the crude-by-rail rulemaking would help to avoid train derailments and crashes involving the more than 415,000 ...

Winning Safer Workplaces: The State-plan Switcheroo

by Matt Shudtz | February 09, 2015
In Kansas and Maryland, two states separated by geography and politics, Republican state lawmakers are touting plans that could seriously alter the institutions that workers in those states rely upon to keep them safe on the job. Two weeks ago, Maryland Delegate (now State Senator) Andrew Serafini introduced a bill that would make drastic changes to the way the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health agency (MOSH) does its job. So drastic, in fact, that the feds would likely have to ...

New CPR Issue Alert: The Small Business Charade

by Matt Shudtz | February 04, 2015
Tomorrow, the House is set to vote on the Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act (SBRFIA), a piece of legislation that CPR Senior Policy Analyst James Goodwin has explained would “further entrench big businesses’ control over rulemaking institutions and procedures that are ostensibly intended to help small businesses participate more effectively in the development of new regulations.” As Members of the House prepare for Thursday’s vote, CPR has something to add to their files: a new Issue Alert with details ...

Your Up-to-Date 10-Day Forecast for Capitol Hill: A Blizzard of Antiregulatory Bills

by James Goodwin | January 28, 2015
While meteorologists’ recent doom-laden predictions of an apocalyptic blizzard hitting the mid-Atlantic may not have exactly panned out, I have a forecast that you can take to the bank:  A large mass of conservative hot air has recently moved into the Washington, DC, region where it is now combining with a high pressure zone of intense industry lobbying.  As a result, we can expect over the next several days a heavy downpour of bills aimed at eviscerating our nation’s regulatory ...

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