Including the full article since some may see paywall
The All-Time Regulation Record
Team Obama has hit 600 major rules, and 50 more may follow.
The progressive explanation for the slowest economic recovery in nearly 70 years is that expansions after financial crises are always like this. There appears to be no statute of limitations on this excuse, which is especially convenient every four years. But those who want more than a political rationalization might look to the all-time presidential record of costly regulation set by the Obama Administration.
That’s the news from a report to be released soon showing that President Obama’s regulators have completed their 600th major rule. A major rule imposes costs of more than $100 million. For those keeping score, that’s an average of 81 big ones a year, or roughly one every three days the government is open. Who says our bureaucracies are inefficient?
The two George W. Bush terms were no deregulatory prize, contrary to progressive myth, having pushed out 496 major rules. These included such charms as rules to implement Sarbanes-Oxley and the expansion of Medicare. But Team Obama has already exceeded that by 20%, with 100 new major rules in the last year, and this crowd still has six long months to go.
Sam Batkins of the American Action Forum, who did the study, calculates that the economic cost of all this adds up to $743 billion, based on data provided by federal agencies. Mr. Batkins doesn’t say this, but that estimate is almost surely an understatement because agencies routinely low-ball the costs and overestimate the benefits of the rules they propose.
Mr. Batkins offers some comparative cost perspective: $743 billion is larger than the GDP of Norway and Israel combined, and it amounts to a regulatory tax of $2,294 on every American. This eventually shows up in higher prices, or fewer jobs created, or reduced profits and wages.
Such rules are good for lawyers and compliance officers, however. The report figures that compliance requires 194 million hours a year of shuffling paper. Imagine the entire population of Albany, N.Y. (roughly 100,000) working full-time on following government orders.
The regulatory crush isn’t over. Mr. Batkins says the Administration has already issued 40 major rules in 2016 and it may have as many as 50 more in the pipeline. In only the past few months the Administration has issued major rules on drones ($2.6 billion); a fiduciary rule for retirement savings ($31.5 billion); and new rules on Arctic drilling ($2.1 billion).
Going forward, the Administration plans to finish up greenhouse gas standards for heavy-duty trucks ($31 billion), efficiency rules for manufactured housing ($4.1 billion), and more. Two-term Presidents often rush out rules in the lame duck months after the election, and Mr. Obama could do so without fear of political override if Hillary Clinton wins the election. She’d surely veto any bill Congress passed under the Congressional Review Act.
The larger story here is that progressive economists talk and behave as if none of this affects economic growth. They focus on macroeconomic matters of taxes, spending and monetary policy, while treating microeconomic policy as an afterthought. Yet any entrepreneur or CEO will tell you that the expanding web of federal rules is a major preoccupation. Meanwhile, the regulatory onslaught continues—and so does 1%-2% growth.