NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


December 29, 2008

Barack Obama has a sweeping, ambitious agenda full of new financial regulations, new labor regulations and new energy regulations.  But while some people still seem to think Republicans take a hands-off approach to regulation, the Republican rhetoric doesn't always match Republican policy, says Veronique de Rugy, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

For example:

  • In 2007, roughly 50 regulatory agencies issued 3,595 final rules, ranging from boosting fuel economy standards for light trucks to continuing a ban on bringing torch lighters into airplane cabins, and 5 departments (Commerce, Agriculture, Homeland Security, Treasury, and the Environmental Protection Agency) accounted for 45 percent of the new regulations.
  • Since Bush took office in 2001, there has been a 13 percent decrease in the annual number of new rules.
  • Of the new rules, 159 are "economically significant," meaning they will cost at least $100 million a year; that's a 10 percent increase in the number of high-cost rules since 2006, and a 70 percent increase since 2001.
  • And at the end of 2007, another 3,882 rules were already at different stages of implementation, 757 of them targeting small businesses.

Moreover, the Bush team has spent more taxpayer money on issuing and enforcing regulations than any previous administration in U.S. history.  Between 2001 and 2009, outlays on regulatory activities, adjusted for inflation, increased from $26.4 billion to an estimated $42.7 billion, or 62 percent. 

The sad implication is that today it costs more to produce each rule than it cost 8 years ago.  If the regulator's budget is going up while the number of final rules is decreasing, then the regulatory process is becoming increasingly inefficient.  And since the regulations are becoming more expensive, taxpayers are losing on all fronts, says de Rugy.

Source: Veronique de Rugy, "Bush's Regulatory Kiss-Off," Reason, January 2009.

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