“Cost-Benefit Analysis”: The Innocent Phrase Masking a Deplorable GOP Scheme To Stop Wall Street Regulation

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) is co-sponsoring a bill that would allow the president to tinker with regulatory commissions

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

Beware neutral-sounding phrases that mask hidden agendas. One example from Washington, D.C., this week: “cost-benefit analysis.” Why would anyone oppose assessing whether the benefits of an action outweigh the costs? Of course we favor that!

But now comes a bill sponsored by Sens. Rob Portman, Susan Collins, and Mark Warner (two Republicans and a Democrat) giving the White House the power to intervene in the business of independent regulatory agencies such as the SEC, FDIC, and FCC, under the guise of cost-benefit analysis.


We should be clear that this bill is principally being pushed by Republicans who want to stop any regulations relating to financial reform. They are trying to create another opportunity to intervene before the already delayed Dodd-Frank regulations kick in. These lawmakers are using the responsible-sounding buzzphrase “cost benefit” to hammer home their misguided belief that somehow the various rules mandated by Dodd-Frank to regulate the market will cost more than the resulting benefits to the market.


The cost of the economic cataclysm of 2008 has now been calculated as approximately $12.8 trillion. See the careful and thoughtful report [PDF] by Dennis Kelleher’s group Better Markets. A few more regulations surely would have cost less than what we paid by not having them. And do we even need to debate the benefit to society of potentially avoiding the disaster caused by unregulated fraudulent activities and the crooks who perpetrated them?


This horrendous bill should be stopped in its tracks. The independence of these agencies should not be sacrificed.

Here’s the kicker. Republicans: At least be consistent. At the same time the Republican Party is pushing to stop any rules or regulations relating to the financial markets—where we know fraud is rampant—they have passed all sorts of voter ID laws that impose enormous costs and burdens on our society. Yet they cannot show us any evidence of voter impersonation fraud. None.

So how do they square this huge voter-ID effort with the cost-benefit analysis they now say is so critical?

They can’t. But who would expect logic and consistency from a party whose standard bearer’s image is an outsourced Etch-A-Sketch?