Skip to content
Opinion
Cass R. Sunstein

Don't Change U.S. Rules Without Weighing Impact

Presidents of both parties have agreed for three decades to measure the costs and benefits of proposed regulations. Until now.
Measure first, regulate later.

Measure first, regulate later.

Photographer: Chris J Ratcliffe/AFP/Getty Images

Late last year, the Department of Labor proposed an important and controversial federal regulation without a serious analysis of its costs and benefits, and of its likely effects on low-income American workers. That’s a big mistake, a disservice to the public and a bad precedent. It might cause legal trouble as well.

The absence of such an analysis, including numbers, is inconsistent with decades of practice supported by both Republican and Democratic presidents. Under a series of executive orders starting with President Ronald Reagan and most recently reaffirmed by President Donald Trump, presidents have required all executive agencies to accompany “major” rules with a “regulatory impact analysis.” That analysis must quantify the costs and benefits of both proposed and final regulations.