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Regulatory Lessons

AAF’s Week in Regulation is always worth a read, but a few highlights from last week’s edition stand out. First, in tracking the recent administrations’ regulatory records, it is somewhat stunning to find the Biden and Trump Administrations tied at 352 final rules at this point in their respective tenures (and ahead of the 480 final rules of the notorious if-it-moves-regulate-it Obama Administration). Even more shocking is the difference in the burdens imposed on the private sector: $214.7 billion in final rule costs for the Biden Administration, compared to $1 billion (yes, one) for the Trump Administration. Sort of amazing.

Dan Bosch and Dan Goldbeck provide a bit of insight into how this transpires at the Department of Energy: “The general story goes something like this: DOE proposes a new standard at the end of the Obama Administration; that standard is either actively or passively put on hold under the Trump Administration; the Biden Administration picks it back up due to renewed agency interest and/or judicial rulings in the interim years. This dynamic is hardly unique to DOE, but given certain statutorily driven deadlines in this regulatory space, these rulemakings appear to be coming back online at a swifter pace.”

More generally, the Trump folks were busy, busy, busy trying to protect the private sector from the legacy regulations of the Obama era. The Biden folks have been busier, busier, busier trying to reverse the Trump efforts. This suggests that the Biden Administration might remain at a pace of imposing regulatory costs nearly double the Obama years.

If so, it does so at its own risk. The nearly $900 billion regulatory price tag for the Obama years was accompanied by unsatisfactory growth. Doubling down – literally – means adding more costs to the supply side of the economy, which the administration’s own economic officials readily cite as a source of the inflation consumers are facing. Greater inflation pressure and slower trend growth would not be doing anyone a favor.

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Fact of the Day

A trade agreement between the U.S. and Taiwan that eliminates tariffs and reduces non-tariff barriers would increase U.S. total trade by $6.2 billion.