Pollak: Biden Memo Calls for Massive Expansion of Regulatory State

In this Jan. 20, 2021, file photo, President Joe Biden signs his first executive orders in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. Six of Biden's 17 first-day executive orders dealt with immigration, such as halting work on a border wall in Mexico and lifting a travel ban …
AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File

A memorandum signed by President Joe Biden on his first day in office calls for a massive expansion of federal regulations, ordering federal government agencies to ignore the potential costs to American jobs and liberty.

The memo, euphemistically titled “Modernizing Regulatory Review,” declares that “Regulations that promote the public interest are vital for tackling national priorities.” It directs the director of the Office of Management and Budget — who would be Neera Tanden of the left-wing Center for American Progress, if confirmed by the Senate — “to begin a process with the goal of producing a set of recommendations for improving and modernizing regulatory review. ”

The new, “modernized” process of reviewing regulations is to consider whether the proposed regulations promote “public health and safety, economic growth, social welfare, racial justice, environmental stewardship, human dignity, equity, and the interests of future generations.” It is also to make sure that regulations “reflect new developments in scientific and economic understanding” and “do not inappropriately burden disadvantaged, vulnerable, or marginalized communities.”

Crucially, however, the process must “ensure that regulatory review serves as a tool to affirmatively promote regulations that advance these values.” That is, the process of reviewing regulations is to have a built-in bias toward more regulation.

That is a stark reversal of President Donald Trump’s policy of cutting down regulations. As an editorial in Issues & Insights noted recently, President Biden reversed a Trump executive order that required the federal government remove two regulations for every new one it introduced.

The Trump administration followed through on that commitment, cutting more than four old regulations for each new one. That deregulation helped drive rapid economic growth and job creation. Cutting through red tape also accelerated Operation Warp Speed, developing coronavirus vaccines in record time.

Notably, Biden’s memorandum does not say anything about saving or creating jobs. To the extent it acknowledges cost-benefit analysis at all, it says regulators must focus on”distributional” questions — i.e. the cost to “disadvantaged” groups, according to the logic of identity politics. And the economic analysis it invokes is “new developments” — i.e. the old understanding that regulations pose an obstacle to entrepreneurship and growth must be set aside for new statist ideas.

The memorandum appears to assume regulation for regulation’s sake is always good. The result could be a massive expansion of the regulatory state — one foreshadowed by Biden’s record-setting use of executive orders to set national policy.

Issues & Insight calls Biden’s memorandum “worst executive order.” Judging by its sweeping ambition, that may be right.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). His newest e-book is How Not to Be a Sh!thole Country: Lessons from South Africa. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.


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