This op-ed was originally published in The Hill.
The surging COVID-19 delta variant is sending thousands of people to the hospital, killing others, and straining several states' hospital systems to their breaking point. The climate crisis is hurting people, communities and countries as we write this piece, with apocalyptic wildfires, crippling droughts and raging floodwaters. Systemic racism continues unabated, leading to vast economic and environmental injustices. It's beyond time for urgent action, but to get there, the federal government must reform the opaque, biased method it uses to evaluate our nation's public health, economic and environmental protections.
The day President Joe Biden took office, he ordered executive branch agencies to evaluate and reform the regulatory review process to “ensure swift and effective Federal action” to address the urgent problems we currently face. The administration is unlikely to live up to this goal unless the White House addresses the hyper-technical form of cost-benefit analysis that is the centerpiece of this process.
The ongoing national reckoning with racism has prompted widespread scrutiny of many institutions, including the White House's centralized regulatory review process led by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). The relentless focus on cost-benefit analysis in regulatory review …
This op-ed originally ran in The Regulatory Review. Reprinted with permission.
To paraphrase French economist Thomas Piketty, the task of evaluating new regulations is too important to leave to just economists. Yet, since the 1980s, White House-supervised regulatory impact analysis has privileged economic efficiency as the primary and often only legitimate objective of federal regulation. The regulatory reform initiative launched by President Joseph R. Biden on his first day in office creates an opportunity to reorient regulatory analysis in ways that both reformers and the public support.
Far from a monolithic concept, cost-benefit analysis encompasses a wide range of approaches and techniques, all with their own theoretical underpinnings and ethical commitments. Indeed, the current version of cost-benefit analysis is grounded in the conservative discipline of welfare economics and seeks …
Originally published in The Regulatory Review. Reprinted with permission.
By even cost-benefit analysis — the most biased metric — regulations are improving America, producing benefits that exceed costs by a ratio of as much as 12-to-1, according to the most recent figures from the Trump Administration. Of course, those numbers barely scratch the surface of what regulations actually "do."
Thanks in part to the Clean Air Act, for example, the median concentration of lead in the blood of children between one and five years old decreased 93 percent between 1976 and 2012. The Endangered Species Act was instrumental in bringing the iconic bald eagle back from the brink of extinction. And the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's regulations helped reduce worker fatality rates from 18 deaths per 100,000 workers in 1970 to four deaths per 100,000 workers in 2006.
Given the enormous success of regulations, you …