(group) Read, analyze and evaluate the letter on regulators by Bonner.
Make Regulators Stop and Think
Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin is concerned that Harvard University's John Graham (President Bush's nominee to run the office of regulatory affairs at the White House budget office) might want to discuss proposed rules with regulators before they are cast in stone ("Graham's Cracker," Review & Outlook, June 27).
Drawing regulators' attention to the unintended consequences of their proposed actions can be a sobering experience, particularly in light of past mistakes. After examining the data on deaths and injuries caused by passenger-side airbags, Mr. Graham told the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in 1997 that he was "stunned and appalled by the harm they have inflicted upon small children."
"They appear to kill more children than they save," Mr. Graham added, "with the best estimate being a net 33% increase in death risk to children." Once a strong supporter of passenger-side airbags, Mr. Graham told the NTSB that "We should be mature enough to re-examine what we have done and work hard to clean up the mess we have made."
Far better to have someone review proposed rules and regulations that have seen well intended but ill-conceived schemes go awry than to have someone rubber-stamp every bureaucratic compromise that comes across his desk.
BONNER R. COHEN
Lexington Institute Arlington, VA.
Reviewing proposed regulations for unintended consequences is not a bad thing. Everyone's work should be checked. However, presumably the regulators job includes looking for unintended consequences. When they fail to do so, either they missed something despite their job, or they have biases that cause them to miss it. However, there's nothing to prevent the white house budget office from having biases of their own. So who will regulate them? And in fact, the white house budget office has a different mission than any regulatory agency. While it is part of the regulatory agency's mission to look for unintended consequences, the white house budget office's mission is not of promoting public benefit, but of cutting costs and promoting the president's policy priorities (which will be geared toward getting him re-elected). So I doubt the office of the budget will truly be looking for unintended consequences.