Meanwhile, Behind The Scenes

Posted by | July 15, 2011 10:31 | Filed under: Top Stories

by Stuart Shapiro

The discussions over the debt ceiling have rightfully dominated headlines this week.  But that doesn’t mean that the wheels of governance have ground to a halt.  Earlier this week, President Obama issued an executive order that has received virtually no attention.

In a notable display of authority over independent regulatory agencies, President Obama issued an executive order yesterday informing such agencies that they “should” follow certain executive guidelines in order to make “wise” regulatory decisions.

The executive order directs these agencies to promote presidential goals in their policy making, increase public participation in their decision making, retrospectively analyze existing rules, and release their analyses of these rules online.

Independent regulatory agencies are agencies such as SEC, FCC and FTC.  Every President since Reagan has contemplated extending their authority over these agencies.  But they have hesitated for fear of blowback from Congress which views independent agencies as their sphere of influence.  While the executive order just says that these agencies “should” follow the order, this is stronger language than any previous president has dared.

I have mixed feelings.  On the one hand, the public would be well served if the independent agencies engaged in more transparent and more analytical decision-making.  On the other hand, this continues a decade old trend of increasing presidential power, a trend which has a potential cost as demonstrated by the Bush Administration.

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Copyright 2011 Liberaland
By: Stuart Shapiro

Stuart is a professor and the Director of the Public Policy
program at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers
University. He teaches economics and cost-benefit analysis and studies
regulation in the United States at both the federal and state levels.
Prior to coming to Rutgers, Stuart worked for five years at the Office
of Management and Budget in Washington under Presidents Clinton and
George W. Bush.

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