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Cutting Red Tape: The Solution or an Indicator of the Problem?

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by Publius
Posted August 23, 2011, 9:38 AM

In a WSJ op-ed today, Cass Sunstein, administrator of the President Obama's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, writes that federal agencies are saving taxpayers billions by cutting red tape and streamlining restrictions, following the President's executive order mandating that these agencies produce plans to "measure, and seek to improve, the actual results of regulatory requirements."

Click here for the text of President Obama's executive order, entitled "Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review," released on Jan. 18, 2011.

According to Sunstein, agencies are now releasing their final plans, "including hundreds of initiatives that will reduce costs, simplify the system, and eliminate redundancy and inconsistency." Among the rule changes are the removal of unnecessary regulations and reporting requirements by Health and Human Services on health care providers, the simplification of hazard warnings for workers by the Dept. of Labor, and removal of some regulation of the railroad industry by the Dept. of Transportation.

At the Cato@Liberty blog, however, Trevor Burrus argues that the agencies are missing the point and should be focused on the processes that brought about the need for these reforms. He says that serious cutting needs to take place, even of programs that President Obama and others view as "sacred cows":

These sacred cows ... have a severe eating disorder. The binge and purge cycle that politicans occasionally put them through does nothing to eliminate the underlying disease. Governmental agencies are inherently inefficient and wasteful because they have few reasons not to be. Searching out government waste is a chimerical mission that should raise fundamental questions about the nature of government....

For more on the executive order requiring agencies to eliminate waste, click here to read Susan Dudley's article for the latest issue of the Federalist Society journal Engage entitled "Prospects for Regulatory Reform in 2011."

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