An Analysis of the Sixth Government Report on the Costs and Benefits of Federal Regulations

Robert Hahn and
Robert Hahn
Robert Hahn Director of Economics - Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at the University of Oxford, Former Brookings Expert
Robert E. Litan

April 15, 2003

Executive Summary

This paper critically reviews the draft of the Office of Management and Budget’s sixth report on the benefits and costs of federal regulation. The draft report represents an improvement over previous reports in some ways. For example, it aggregates costs and benefits for regulatory programs and expands the time frame of analysis to ten years.

While there has been progress, some useful innovations from last year are not included in this draft. Unlike last year’s report, this year’s draft report neither lists antiterrorism regulations by agency nor provides useful summary information on a number of OMB’s regulatory oversight activities, such as return letters and prompt letters.

There is room for significant improvement. We offer five recommendations—one for Congress and four for OMB—that would help hold lawmakers more accountable for the regulations they produce. Our recommendations focus on getting the regulatory agencies to produce better analysis, making that analysis more transparent and readily available, and making the regulatory process itself more transparent.

We recommend that OMB include a scorecard that summarizes the extent to which regulatory analyses comply with OMB’s guidelines for regulatory analysis; provide information on regulations addressing terrorist threats; summarize useful information on a number of OMB’s regulatory oversight activities, including return letters, prompt letters, turnaround time, and regulations and programs recommended for improvement or reform; and ask independent agencies to provide annual assessments of the costs and benefits of their economically significant regulations. We also suggest that Congress require agencies to comply with OMB’s information quality guidelines and guidelines for regulatory analysis.