With attention in Washington, D.C., divided between election post-
mortems and the looming financial catastrophe that is the "fiscal
cliff," a truly awful piece of legislation might well sneak through
the 112th Congress before it adjourns at year's end.
The Independent Agency Regulatory Analysis Act (S. 3468) is made
more awful by the fact that it has at least some bipartisan support.
It appears to be so well-greased that it could be sent to the Senate
floor without hearings that would disclose how awful it truly is.
The bill is a stealth attack on independent government regulation
masquerading as careful "cost-benefit analysis." It would authorize
the president to require regulatory agency rulemakers to perform 13
new analyses of regulatory costs before finalizing rules. Then the
White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (50 people
who work for the Office of Management and Budget) would get to
review all agency regulations.
Mostly this just sounds like just so much numbing bureaucratic
falderal boring, but not awful. But in Washington, a lot of money
gets made in the seams of bureaucracy. If a regulated industry can
throw a monkey-wrench into the process, casting doubt and slowing
things down, then regulation takes much longer to happen. Banks and
industry save billions, and consumers go without proper protection.
It will not surprise you to learn that the financial industry is
among the bill's strongest supporters. Presidents come and go;
control of the House and Senate passes from one party to another.
But the banks in the immortal words of Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.
run the place.
"This is a sideways attack on Dodd-Frank," said Lisa Donner,
executive director of Americans for Financial Reform, a consortium
of consumer-advocacy and good-government groups. The Dodd-Frank Wall
Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act was signed into law in
July 2010. It is an attempt to curtail some of the more egregious
practices of the financial industry that helped crash the economy in
Dodd-Frank, thanks to the diligent work of financial industry
lobbyists, isn't as strong as it should have been. Its rules haven't
fully taken effect and until last Tuesday, many Republicans in
Congress still hoped to repeal it. For the industry, the key now is
to drag out the process as long as possible.
That's what S. 3468 is all about. Regulators, who already do
significant cost-benefit analyses, will have to jump through more