Monday, April 02, 2012

Red Tape Still Rising, Despite Administration's Regulatory Review

Continuing their series of periodic reports on the growing number of costly government regulations, Heritage Foundation’s James Gattuso and Diane Katz recently released "Red Tape Rising: Obama-Era Regulation at the Three-Year Mark."

Like its predecessors (one of which I blogged about previously), this report continues to chronicle the accelerated rate of federal rulemaking:

During 2011, the Obama Administration completed a total of 3,611 rulemaking proceedings, according to the Federal Rules Database maintained by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), of which 79 were classified as "major," meaning that each had an expected economic impact of at least $100 million per year. Of those, 32 increased regulatory burdens (defined as imposing new limits or mandates on private-sector activity). Just five major actions decreased regulatory burdens…Regulations adopted in 2011 cost Americans some $10 billion in new annual costs, according to estimates by the regulatory agencies.

But Gattuso and Katz go on to explain why "[t]he actual cost of these new regulations is almost certainly higher than the totals reported here." And even more federal regulations are in the works for 2012:

The most recent Unified Agenda (also known as the Semiannual Regulatory Agenda)—a bi-annual compendium of planned regulatory actions as reported by agencies lists 2,576 rules (proposed and final) in the pipeline. The largest proportion—505 rulemakings—is from the Treasury Department, the SEC, and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission—all tasked with issuing hundreds of rules under the massive Dodd–Frank statute. The Environmental Protection Agency is responsible for 174 others, while 133 are from the Department of Health and Human Services, reflecting, in part, the regulatory requirements of Obamacare.

Of the 2,576 pending rulemakings in the fall 2011 agenda, 133 are classified as “economically significant.” With each of these expected to cost at least $100 million annually, they represent a total additional burden of at least $13.3 billion every year.

Gattuso and Katz also challenge effectiveness of the Administration's agency-by-agency regulatory review initiative to reduce outdated and costly mandates:

The Administration claimed that its reforms would, if implemented, reduce regulatory costs by $10 billion per year. But little or none of this reduction has materialized. Of the four major actions in 2011 that reduced regulatory burdens, none were the product of the regulatory review initiative.

The authors then offer some steps for Congress to take in stemming the tide of new federal regulations. Like its predecessors, this report offers a sobering assessment of the persistent growth of costly government mandates. Gattuso and Katz's critique of the Administration's regulatory review process is certainly worth further reflection.