The same day that President Joe Biden assumed office and signed executive orders mandating masks on federal land (a rule he promptly broke), loosened immigration protections, and waged war on biological sex, he also issued a memo enabling the expansion of bureaucratic regulations to promote a socially progressive agenda.
In a process that Biden describes as “improving and modernizing regulatory review,” the president ordered the director of the Office of Management and Budget to consider certain political aims such as “public health and safety, economic growth, social welfare, racial justice, environmental stewardship, human dignity, equity, and the interests of future generations” as benefits when weighing the costs of certain executive departments and agencies’ actions.
“Our Nation today faces serious challenges, including a massive global pandemic; a major economic downturn; systemic racial inequality; and the undeniable reality and accelerating threat of climate change,” Biden wrote. “It is the policy of my Administration to mobilize the power of the Federal Government to rebuild our Nation and address these and other challenges. As we do so, it is important that we evaluate the processes and principles that govern regulatory review to ensure swift and effective Federal action. Regulations that promote the public interest are vital for tackling national priorities.”
Now, instead of evaluating whether a new policy proposed or implemented by a federal agency is worth the cost, the OMB will have to take the political “values” that advance Biden’s progressive agenda into account as a reason and even potentially a benefit to keep or move forward with that policy. In other words, bureaucrats can now claim their rules provide some intangible benefit that outweighs any financial cost the regulation imposes Americans.
The Trump administration had required all administrative agencies to perform cost-benefit calculations for major regulations. No more. Under his new, expanded definition of “benefits,” Biden encouraged the bureaucratic offices to “promote regulations” that continue to “advance” any of the listed political goals, increasing the ability of executive organizations to exercise their power and oversight.
During his time in office, former President Donald Trump took the opposite approach to executive departments and agencies, often limiting their power and restricting the reasons for why regulations should continue. In 2017, Trump signed an executive order tasking a group of “regulatory reform officers” with enforcing these limits, such as mandating that for every new executive directive issued by an agency, two other regulations must be rescinded.
Biden, however, undid many of Trump’s changes using his executive power, including issuing more than 40 executive orders in the first two weeks of his White House tenure.