NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Red Tape Rising: Obama-Era Regulation at the Three-Year Mark

March 19, 2012

The first three years of the Obama presidency have seen a marked increase in regulation of the economy.  These new rules, which largely burden employers, threaten job growth in an already-anemic economy, and they have continued despite President Obama's recognition in January 2011 that regulations had gotten out of hand, say James Gattuso and Diane Katz of the Heritage Foundation.

In assessing regulatory patterns and burdens, Gattuso and Katz focus on "major" regulations -- those estimated to have an economic impact of $100 million or more.

  • Despite the president's promise of restraint for 2011, the torrent of new rules and regulations from Washington continued throughout the year with 32 new major regulations.
  • These new rules increase regulatory costs by almost $10 billion annually along with another $6.6 billion in one-time implementation costs.
  • Many of these regulations are associated with gradual implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the new Dodd-Frank financial regulation law.

President Obama in his recent State of the Union Speech stated that he had approved fewer regulations in his first three years than President Bush had in his.  This deceptive statement takes advantage of a large number of small regulations under President Bush to make it appear that his regulatory burden was greater than President Obama's.

  • To support this façade, President Obama cites the number of rulemaking proceedings during Bush's first three years (10,674), which was in fact less than his own (10,215).
  • However, during the three years of the Obama administration, a total of 106 new major regulations have been imposed at a cost of more than $46 billion annually, and nearly $11 billion in one-time implementation costs.
  • This dwarfs President Bush's major regulations during his first three years, which amounted to a mere 28 new major regulations costing only $8.1 billion annually.

Reliance on the total number of regulations disguises the fact that President Obama's regulatory regime has significantly burdened the economy.

Source: James Gattuso and Diane Katz, "Red Tape Rising: Obama-Era Regulation at the Three-Year Mark," Heritage Foundation, March 13, 2012.

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