By Oliver McPherson-Smith, American Consumer Institute
Recent employment data suggests that America is on the road to economic recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 lockdowns. Despite the nascent evidence of better times ahead, the economy in 2020 will not inevitably look like it did in late 2019. To help workers find jobs in this new normal, and to bolster consumer choice, the federal bureaucracy needs to push ahead with its efforts to clear regulations that are impeding America’s recovery.
To address the devastating disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Trump administration has implemented temporary waivers for a variety of different regulations. Some of the most pressing, particularly in the healthcare space, include allowing healthcare providers to use non-hospital buildings to quarantine and treat COVID-19 patients.
Meanwhile, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has loosened restrictions to allow sign language interpreters to telework so that disabled customers can remain connected.
This approach was not a surprise, given the administration’s previous efforts to pare down federal restrictions. In 2017, for example, Executive Order 13771 called on federal agencies to remove two existing regulations for every new regulation implemented. To help the economy’s recovery, last month the president ordered federal agencies to consider which of their regulations should be permanently scrapped.
While these efforts represent a good start, it is imperative that the federal bureaucracy not lose momentum in its efforts to reshape the regulatory landscape. Even though the country’s economic recovery may be under way, it is impossible to turn back time—making the regulatory status quo outdated for the new normal.
According to a recent working paper by economists at the University of Chicago, 42% of recently lost jobs may not return. With millions of skilled workers on the hunt for employment, the federal government needs to get out of the way and allow American innovation to lead the recovery.
Fortunately, federal bureaucrats don’t have to look far to find fodder for a continued regulatory overhaul. The Competitive Enterprise Institute recently released its annual report on the status of federal regulations, entitled Ten Thousand Commandments, which estimates the current cost of federal regulations to be $1.9 trillion. In addition to detailing successful reforms in recent years, the report outlines further areas for improvement, from agriculture to personal liberties.
Although cutting red tape will provide greater opportunities for workers, it can also provide more consumer choice. As consumers continue to grapple with the enduring risk of COVID-19, businesses, government, and universities should be able to tailor their services to meet consumer concerns. For example, rules that have previously restricted senior citizens—a high risk COVID-19 demographic—from consulting medical professionals through telehealth services are a clear starting point.
The American economy appears to have turned a corner following the COVID-19 rout, however, there remains much work to be done in order to make a full recovery. The federal bureaucracy needs to take a proactive approach to identifying and eliminating the countless outdated regulations that limit business services, employment opportunities, consumer choice, and the American economic comeback.
Oliver McPherson-Smith writes for the American Consumer Institute, a nonprofit educational and research organization. For more information about the Institute, visit www.TheAmericanConsumer.Org or follow us on Twitter @ConsumerPal.