Throughout President Obama’s tenure, the number and cost of major regulations has approached record levels—exceeding $46 billion in new annual costs during his first three years. The impact has been economically crippling, of course, notwithstanding the administration’s boasts of regulatory benefits. Yet the White House seems rather shy of late about its hyperactive rulemaking, all of the president’s promises of transparency be damned.
Here it is almost September, and the administration has failed to publish its spring 2012 Regulatory Agenda as required by law. The compendium of planned regulatory actions is required each spring and fall under the Regulatory Flexibility Act as well as Executive Order 12,866, which originated with President Clinton and was reaffirmed by President Obama last year.
With no word from the White House on its failure to comply, Sen. Rob Portman (R–OH) sent a letter of inquiry this week to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. “Concerns about bad press … are no excuse for keeping these plans under wraps,” Portman said. “With regulatory burdens already hindering job creation, the American people are entitled to know the full magnitude of new Obama Administration regulations coming down the pike.”
The fall 2011 agenda listed 2,576 newly proposed and final regulations in the pipeline, including a disproportionate share from the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Health and Human Services, Treasury Department, Security and Exchange Commission, and Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
There’s plenty of evidence that this regulatory frenzy will persist—if not escalate—with or without warning. Whether or not the White House reports it, Obamacare and Dodd-Frank alone would spawn dozens of new major regulations with annual costs in the tens of billions of dollars.
The White House has also postponed a number of major regulatory initiatives in recent months—presumably to be resurrected during the safety of a second term. For example, punishing new ozone standards promulgated by the EPA were withdrawn at the president’s “request,” as were prohibitions on youth employment in agriculture. Meanwhile, major new food and nutrition regulations are MIA, as are rules governing control of so-called greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.
Activist groups are whining, of course, about the president’s newfound regulatory caution. But a great many others are left puzzled by the information blockade given Obama’s pledge to make his administration “the most open and transparent in history.” That’s so 2009, evidently.