Posted on March 25, 2019 by Seth Jaffe
Last week, the Washington Post (subscription required) published an article about the Trump Administration’s inability to defend many of its policies in court. Yours truly was among those quoted. I liked the story and it was largely accurate, including its quotes from me, except that Fred Barbash stated that I had “been looking forward to deregulation under Trump.” On that issue, I can only say that Fred and I had a misunderstanding, because I was never looking forward to deregulation under Trump.
Aside from the relatively unimportant and mildly humorous issue related to me maintaining credibility with a number of people whom I respect, I’m doing this post because that line highlights an important issue – there’s a significant difference between deregulation and regulatory reform. I think much of our environmental regulatory structure could benefit from reform, but I don’t question the benefits of environmental regulation and I don’t support “deregulation.”
Indeed, as the article demonstrates quite well, President Trump has shown no interest in regulatory reform. He just wants to kill as many regulations as possible – or at least persuade his supporters that that’s what he wants to do. Like so many things about this President, he doesn’t actually care about results as much as he cares what his supporters think about him – that’s one reason why the article is a valuable piece of reporting.
And that’s also part of the reason why, as I said in the article, Trump has set regulatory reform back for years. If we want widespread public support for regulation, we have to persuade people that regulations benefit them. That’s why environmentalists shouldn’t fear cost benefit analysis and cost-effectiveness analysis; we need economic analysis to demonstrate the benefits of regulation. We have a President who thinks all regulations are bad, but who cares only about the cost of regulations, not their benefits. As a result, cost-benefit analysis and cost-effectiveness analysis get a bad name.
And that’s bad for everyone.