President Obama’s Regulatory Bait-and-Switch
Diane Katz /
The White House on Tuesday announced “final plans” to reduce “unreasonable” regulations that hinder economic growth and job creation.
That President Obama even acknowledges there are costly consequences to government dictates is progress of sorts, and any reduction in red tape is most welcome. But the anticipated savings from the proposed reforms are swamped by the torrent of new regulatory burdens unleashed by this Administration.
Regulatory officials estimate that the proposed changes, if enacted, could save businesses more than $2 billion a year. Many involve streamlining reporting procedures, while others eliminate regulatory overlap or tweak compliance technicalities. Overall, however, the most economically onerous initiatives of this Administration—Obamacare, Dodd–Frank, and the excesses of the Environmental Protection Agency—remain wholly unaffected and thus dwarf any cost savings from the regulatory review.
Since taking office in January 2009, in fact, the Administration has imposed 75 new major regulations, with additional costs exceeding $40 billion annually. Only six deregulatory actions have been taken in that period, resulting in a net increase in regulatory cost of more than $38 billion a year.
No other President has burdened businesses and individuals with a higher number and larger cost of regulations in a comparable period.
Simply put, when it comes to regulation, what little this Administration takes away, it gives back liberally.
A great many more are rules are looming. The spring 2011 Unified Agenda lists 2,785 rules (proposed and final) in the pipeline. Of those, 144 are classified as “economically significant.” With each of the 144 pending major rules expected to cost at least $100 million annually, they represent at least $14 billion in new burdens each year.
Today’s announcement follows on a presidential executive order in January calling for a review of regulations by federal agencies. Officials released preliminary plans in May, which were finalized and posted today. The true extent of the effort remains to be seen, however. Good intentions do not always produce results—particularly when government bureaucracies are involved.
Indeed, this Administration has a habit of touting success from hollow actions. Just months after taking office, for example, President Obama made much of calling for $100 million in budget cuts. But as noted by former Heritage Foundation analyst Brian Riedl, $100 million out of $4 trillion in spending was a rounding error of a rounding error.
Past Administrations have hardly been paragons of regulatory restraint; the Bush Administration imposed more than $60 billion in new regulatory costs during its two terms. But it has taken Obama just two years to inflict some $40 billion in new annual regulatory burdens that took Bush six years to impose.
Given the unparalleled cost of regulation today and the anemic economy (no coincidence), the Administration’s regulatory review effort should be treated as just the very start of a reform campaign, and not the culmination. There is a great deal that President Obama and Congress can do to alleviate the job-killing consequences of excessive regulation, and the need for action now is imperative.