• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Three Things to Know about Obama's Mountain of Red Tape

    President Barack Obama loves to talk about “teaching moments” (so much so that a member of his own party in Congress has criticized him for it.) The latest lesson the Obama Administration is trying to teach? That its overregulation isn’t costly or unusual, despite all evidence to the contrary. Today’s Wall Street Journal takes that assertion head on.

    Here are three key takeaways:

    1) The White House is picking and choosing numbers in order to understate its regulatory record.

    The WSJ reports that, according to an analysis of the Federal Register by George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, “the Cabinet departments and agencies finalized 84 such regulations annually on average in President Obama’s first two years. The annual average under President Bush was 62 and under President Clinton 56.” The White House, in order to make the case that it isn’t an over-regulator, compares the last two years of the Bush Administration with the first two years of the Obama Administration. The WSJ explains why the comparison isn’t apples to apples:

    Cass Sunstein, the director of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, has been shopping around lower numbers that selectively compare Mr. Obama’s first two years favorably with Mr. Bush’s last two. Administrations are typically most active on the way out, and in any case the Bush regulatory record is nothing to crow about. But Mr. Sunstein’s numbers are even more misleading because they only include the rules that his office reviews while excluding the prolific “independent” agencies such as the Federal Communications Commission.

    This means that if Congress tells, say, the Securities and Exchange Commission to write a new rule, it doesn’t enter Mr. Sunstein’s tally. So it omits, for example, some 259 rules mandated by the Dodd-Frank financial reregulation law along with its 188 other rule suggestions. It also presumes that Mr. Obama is a bystander with no influence over his own appointees who now dominate the likes of the National Labor Relations Board.

    2) Rulemaking under the Obama Administration is set to surge.

    While the rules the Obama Administration has already promulgated ought to be counted toward their total, future rules and the regulatory pace going forward must be considered, as well. And a government document known as the “Unified Agenda” reveals that a boatload of regulations are on the horizon. From the WSJ:

    The current number of major new rules is 149, which is an historic high. Regulation started to grow in the aftermath of 9/11, and even more with the Pelosi Congress in 2007. Yet both the rule-making rate and number are surging to even higher levels under Mr. Obama

    3) The costs of Obama’s regulations are much higher than White House estimates.

    When you want to know how much regulations cost, there are the government’s estimates, and then there is reality. The White House estimates the total costs of its first two years of regulation at between $8 billion and $16.5 billion. The Heritage Foundation, though, estimates the total cost at $40 billion, compared to $60 billion over the life of the Bush Administration. The WSJ explains the discrepancy:

    One problem with all such estimates is that they are based on self-reporting by government. Some agencies like the EPA have a habit of exaggerating benefits and hiding costs, but more importantly its analysis is done before the rules take effect in the real world. Often the true cost of regulation isn’t merely compliance but slower growth that diminishes consumer welfare by allocating capital and labor to less valuable or productive uses.

    Read more about the growth of federal government regulations in Heritage’s special report, “Red Tape Rising: A 2011 Mid-Year Report.”

    Posted in Featured [slideshow_deploy]

    8 Responses to Three Things to Know about Obama's Mountain of Red Tape

    1. steve h says:

      Not sure what so many folks are so strongly against regulation. I can understand how big buinsess could oppose since they may be adding to their costs – but there are good reasons for regulations. Regulations brought far safer working conditions for average Americans, whether in factories or coal mines or large office buildings. Regulations have made our country safer, from the foor and medicine we eat to air we breathe. Haven't the vast majority of regualtions been better for the country and our workers overall? Just like in the turn of the century, the owners of business didn't want to install sprinklers or have fire drills or take other preventive measures against fires…and then the Triangle factory fire happened in NY and that changed everything. I wish we didn;t always wait for tragedy to happen before regulating.

      • Bobbie says:

        where's the record of hazards that shows a need for government intrusion to overextend and overreach unconstitutionally, regulations? there isn't. If a problem arises in the business, they handle it without outside government influence. All this is in preparation for obamacare which is also unconstitutional. If you were patriotic, you would know obama is abusing his position and I'm not patriotic to that.

        Heritage. there's a box that pops up that says something about "sorry, time bla bla bla?" I closed it out thinking it was a glitch but it happened again… help?

      • Stirling says:

        There is good regualtion (that which is common sense safety), and bad regulations (those which are done for Central Planning purposes that infringe on our Freedoms to the point which the cost makes doing business not affordable anymore.) Both are dependent on each individuals interpertation.

        This interpertation is where the debate has always been. Central Planners (Like Cass Sunstein) have always belived that they must regulate every aspect of people lives to create a perfect world no matter what the cost involved to the detriment of the individuals freedom to do as they want. This is the Collective v.s the Individual arguement. A businessman (individual) would like as little regualtion needed to provide the product or service (as to keep a competitive price and make a profit for himself and any investors of the product.)

        Profit is the "Incentive" which is the backbone of the free-market system, but regulators don't take in account this when creating their policies. If they did then we would have less regulations, and less need for lawers to drive up the cost of doing business for everyone.

      • Doug S. says:

        That's a little bit of a stretch, Steve! The Triangle Fire was in 1911 and after that New York put several building codes in place with regards to fire prevention and requirements of factories in high rises.(The NY Fire Department didn't have a ladder truck that could reach the 10th floor) Changing EVERYTHING was gradual over the next 60 YEARS!!!!! OSHA was established in Dec., 1970 during the Nixon Administration.
        It's not the regulation that people are against, it's OVER REGULATION!!! Also, after the Triangle Fire, it was New York that established the regulations, NOT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT!!!!! Doug S.

    2. sam says:

      Your representative owes you not his industry only, but his judgement and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to our opinion. We must think so as to avoid Dupery.

    3. Laura Henning` says:

      Steve H makes a good argument but at some point when the law of diminishing returns kicks in additional regulations do more harm than good.

    4. Diana says:

      Business today has too many regulations and that is harmful for the job creators. Government needs to get out of the way and leave the entrapeneurs of this world do their thing. Obama and his policies and standing in the way of the small business in our country.

    5. Leon Lundquist says:

      Super Over Regulation, that is Cass Sunstein's special talent. Are we over the 2800 page Bills, like this is a new normal? These Progressives will not be satisfied with sensible regulation. They won't be happy until every aspect of your life is micro managed. Then, I suppose it will be 'Picture a human face and a boot smashing it. And it never stops!' Imagine a grotesque human with a head weighing 50%, monstrous. But, that still won't be enough. Look a Medicine, over regulated and prices skyrocketed up 20% every year for decades. Obama Progressives are still not satisfied, they want to take over 'best practices' with the duplication of Medical Standards. See? No matter how much power you give them, they always want more.

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.