Regulatory policy made a cameo appearance in last night’s presidential debate when Governor Mitt Romney took aim at the Obama Administration’s penchant for making rules.
“Regulations have quadrupled,” Romney said. “The rate of regulations quadrupled under this President.”
The assertion led to a mini-controversy this morning over the Obama regulatory record. Left-leaning blogger Andrew Sullivan, Salon.com, and the Huffington Post all jumped in to argue that there has been no such increase in regulation. Obama, in fact, has imposed fewer new regulations than did Bush, they claim.
But they are wrong, and Romney was right.
The number cited by Romney comes from Heritage’s most recent “Red Tape Rising” report, which compared the number and cost of major regulations during the first three years of President Obama’s Administration to the first three years under President George W. Bush.
In terms of total rulemakings, Obama’s total was almost equal to Bush’s—at 10,215 and 10,674, respectively. But most analysts recognize that these gross figures mean little, because most regulations are routine actions, such as aviation maintenance bulletins and fishing season limits.
Far more telling are the numbers of “major” rules: those that will cost the private sector $100 million or more each year. We found that 106 such major new regulations have been adopted during the Obama years, compared to 28 under Bush—a ratio of 3.8 to 1. In terms of cost, Obama’s rules imposed some $46 billion in additional annual burdens, compared to $8.1 billion in new costs during the first three Bush years, a whopping 5.6 to 1 ratio.
These numbers should not be surprising: President Obama has hardly been shy about making the case for increased regulation, and the record reflects that. Governor Romney was right to point that out.