- - Sunday, February 3, 2019

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Our nation alone was founded on the proposition that We the People should govern ourselves. That is why conservatives object to unelected bureaucrats enacting rules without the consent of the people. Fortunately, with the simple stroke of a pen, President Trump has the ability to restore power to citizens and make the regulatory morass less economically burdensome.

By signing an executive order to force federal agencies to be transparent with their studies and data, he could add to his excellent deregulatory legacy and unshackle manufacturers and industries so they can contribute more to our nation’s economic growth.

The cost of federal regulations is obnoxiously high and directly impacts the pocketbooks of all Americans to the tune of almost $2 trillion a year — nearly a tenth of America’s gross domestic product. The highly respected Mercatus Center has shown that these costs also result in a massive drag on economic growth, further harming jobs and families.

Huge drivers of these costs are bad rules based on questionable — and concealed — evidence. Unsound or unreproducible scientific research hidden from policymakers, the public and scientific peers has been used by regulators with personal agendas to promulgate unsupported environmental and other rules that harm the economy and impede progress.

Members of both parties agree: Better government is built on sound and open data. This is one way to empower citizens and ensure that new rules meet their needs without unnecessary costs.



A bipartisan Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking (CEP) was formed to implement a bipartisan bill increasing policymakers’ access to data. And Mr. Trump — who has implemented far-reaching regulatory reform efforts — has also weighed in on data transparency with an executive order requiring agencies to identify existing regulations that “rely in whole or in part on data, information, or methods that are not publicly available or that are insufficiently transparent to meet the standard of reproducibility.”

But to ensure truly responsible and transparent standards for all regulation, we need access to scientific data for newly proposed regulations as well as for those regulations not yet finalized. That’s why the American Conservative Union is leading an effort — supported by many other conservative organizations and business groups — seeking a further executive order to provide for CLEAR Data — which stands for “Clarifying the Law on Evidentiary Access for Regulation.”

If Congress is too slow to restore citizen government to promote innovation and individual freedom, the president should use his authority through executive order. It is abundantly clear that Democrats in the House are not willing to work with this president. So with the stroke of a pen, the president could make transparency uniform across government.

A piecemeal approach with each agency pursuing its own agenda would produce terrible results. An even worse outcome is certain if career bureaucrats are allowed to work in secret to keep their pet regulations hidden from an agency process intended to address CLEAR Data initiatives.

The executive order should apply to scientific data key accountability principles included in CEP’s recommendations:

Transparency. CEP concluded: “Those engaged in generating and using data and evidence should (provide) meaningful channels for public input and comment and ensure that evidence produced is made publicly available.” Our proposed effort would call for data used to justify regulation to be identified and made sufficiently available to test, authenticate and reproduce the findings. And, importantly, it should apply to all regulations currently in the pipeline and under review.

Rigor. “Evidence should be developed using well-designed and well-implemented methods tailored to the questions being asked.” We would call for science-based regulation to be based on peer-reviewed studies — the standard in probity and reliability.

Privacy. “Individual privacy and confidentiality must be respected in the generation and use of data and evidence.” We want to ensure that agencies avoid unauthorized disclosure of personal data and trade secrets while allowing other researchers to judge the validity of the conclusions evidence is cited to support.

Humility. CEP suggested that “Care should be taken not to over-generalize from findings that may be specific to a particular study or context.” The ultimate form of humility is accountability — best advanced through an executive order whose provisions on disclosure of research and underlying data.

We couldn’t agree more with the commission’s exhortation: “Whether deciding on funding allocations (or) assessing proposed regulations evidence should play an important role in key decisions made by government officials . to make sure our government’s decision-making process is among the best in the world.”

In other words: To ensure better decision-making and more accountable regulation — at a time when the economic stakes couldn’t be higher for small businesses and working families — we need CLEAR Data that is fully disclosed, high-quality and reproducible, with means in place to protect privacy.

Daniel Schneider is the executive director at The American Conservative Union.

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