NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Phasing Out Inefficient Federal Regulations

July 8, 2003

President Bush and Congress will eventually answer to taxpayers for the $2 trillion federal budget. But who answers for the $860 billion -- 8 percent of gross domestic product -- that federal regulations now cost on top of federal outlays?

In "Ten Thousand Commandments: An Annual Snapshot of the Federal Regulatory State," analyst Clyde Wayne Crews finds regulatory spending takes up more than one-third of the entire federal budget -- a larger burden than the entire federal budget back in the 1960s.

  • The Federal Register, where new rules are published daily, hit an all-time high of 75,606 pages this past year (up from 49,795 in 1990).
  • In the pipeline are now 4,187 rules at various stages of completion.
  • Five agencies are responsible for more than half of this torrent: Environmental Protection Agency and the Transportation, Treasury, Agriculture and Interior departments.

Many such rules are well intended, while others are questionable, says Crews. Congress takes credit for popular regulations, but then blames agencies for costs.

Phasing out inefficient rules, making regulatory costs as transparent as direct taxes and making Congress directly responsible for those costs are crucial to economic health, says Crews.

Source: Clyde Wayne Crews Jr., "High Costs Show Regulatory State is Out of Control," Investor's Business Daily, July 8, 2003; based upon Clyde Wayne Crews Jr., "Ten Thousand Commandments: An Annual Snapshot of the Federal Regulatory State," 2002 Edition, Cato Institute.


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