The Little Agency That Could

June 8, 2023

Why OIRA is crucial for our democracy.

The Roosevelt Rundown features our top stories of the week.

The Deep[ly Necessary] State

If you’ve never heard of OIRA, you aren’t alone. But while small, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs is a mighty federal agency, with a vital role in reviewing and implementing executive branch regulations—for example, regulating pollutants in the air.

It’s also a popular target for some on the right. When conservatives target the administrative state and paint executive powers or civil service as overreaching, agencies like OIRA are what they’re disparaging.

What would the US look like without the administrative state? And what can progressives do to protect it?

On a new episode of How to Save a Country, hosts Felicia Wong and Michael Tomasky ask those questions (and many more) of OIRA’s recent leader, K. Sabeel Rahman, who served in the agency from 2021 to early 2023.

Rahman is the co-founder and co-chair of the Law and Political Economy Project, the former president of the think tank Demos, and the author of the books Democracy against Domination and Civic Power: Rebuilding American Democracy in an Era of Crisis (co-authored by Hollie Russon Gilman).

As Rahman tells Wong and Tomasky, OIRA is indispensable in that rebuilding.

“Of course we want our government to be responsive and accountable to the public,” he says. “But I would actually argue that the way we do that is through the regulatory process, through having policymakers in government who are apolitical, neutral civil servants whose whole mission is to serve the public, not to serve any one party.”

Listen now, and follow for new podcast episodes every Thursday.

And for more from Rahman, check out his essay on industrial policy and inclusion in our recent collection, Industrial Policy Synergies: Reflections from Biden Administration Alumni.


What We’re Reading

Climate Risks Have Made California Uninsurable. When Will We Wake Up? [by Roosevelt fellow Kate Aronoff]The Guardian

What Happens If the SEC’s Coinbase Lawsuit Lands at the Supreme Court? [feat. Roosevelt fellow Todd Phillips] – Quartz

How Reparations for Black Americans Have Gained Steam [feat. Roosevelt senior fellows William Darity Jr. and Darrick Hamilton] [paywall]Washington Post

Alabama Discriminated against Black Voters, US Supreme Court RulesThe Guardian

As Smoke Darkens the Sky, the Future Becomes ClearNew York Times