The top lawmaker in the U.S. House of Representatives unveiled a comprehensive reform agenda, in which he proposes a set of economic policy reforms to reduce the size of government using conservative principles.
The “Better Way” agenda, unveiled in late June by House Speaker Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), includes proposals to expand work requirements for federal entitlement programs and to devolve responsibility for entitlement programs’ administration to local and state governments.
Other economic planks of the agenda include reforming government regulatory processes, balancing the national budget and paying off federal government debts, and subjecting government agencies to stricter watchdog scrutiny.
Spending on Autopilot
Jonathan Bydlak, president of the Coalition to Reduce Spending, a nonpartisan organization calling for reduced government spending and balanced budgets, says he believes restoring the constitutional authority given to Congress to fully appropriate funds is a necessary component of Ryan’s plan.
“Mandatory spending is the largest portion of the budget, and there’s basically no accountability whatsoever,” Bydlak said. “At the end of the day, you can’t be serious about spending without being serious about addressing mandatory spending.”
Budget Control Needed
Bydlak says taming the government beast will not be an easy task for lawmakers.
“You could essentially at this point, given the deficits we’re running, eliminate all discretionary spending and still be running a budget deficit,” Bydlak said. “I think what we know is that the budgetary process in recent years has gotten very disjointed and hasn’t really operated in the way that it should. I think it’s very clear that too much power has been invested in the executive [branch], and Congress hasn’t really pushed back on that.”
Regulatory Costs Increasing
Diane Katz, a research fellow in regulatory policy at The Heritage Foundation, says government regulations have real economic costs.
“Since President [Barack] Obama took office in 2009, the costs of major regulations have increased by $108 billion a year,” Katz said. “Agencies very often fail to quantify the costs—and [they] overstate the benefits—of their rules. But analyzing costs is necessary to identify the tradeoffs inherent in rulemaking and to determine the most efficient and effective course of action among [the] various alternatives.”
“It is also important that the agenda calls for requiring the explicit approval of Congress before any major regulation is allowed to take effect,” Katz said. “Congress, not regulators, should make the laws and be accountable to the American people for the results.”
Katz says rulemaking reforms are needed.
“Returning accountability to Congress would be a major step, but there is no single silver bullet,” Katz said. “Reforms are needed throughout the rulemaking process.”
‘Would Unleash the Economy’
Katz says Ryan’s ideas are sound but need to be reinforced by lawmakers.
“Much of the agenda therein, if enacted, would unleash the economy and restore at least some of the individual liberty that has been crushed by the massive increase in the size and scope of government,” Katz said. “But the agenda is only half the reform equation. What’s also needed is political will to enact it.”