NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


November 9, 2004

In 2003, federal government agencies issued a remarkable 4,148 new rules, which are listed in the 71,269-page Federal Register, according to the Heartland Institute.

Although the cost of the new rules is nowhere to be found in the Register, the total regulatory burden for 2003 approached almost $1 trillion. The five most rule-producing agencies are: Department of Treasury, Transportation, Homeland Security, Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Moreover, according to the latest report from the Office of Management and Budget:

  • Costs of federal regulations amounted to between $34 and $39 billion from 1993 to 2004.
  • Total regulatory costs reached about $869 billion in 2002, more than twice the federal budget deficit, and more than Canada's entire gross domestic product.
  • Furthermore, regulatory agencies spent $30.8 billion to administer regulations, increasing the total to $899.8 billion.

There is some good news, however:

  • The Federal Register has actually shrunk from 75,606 pages in 2002.
  • Congress passed and the president signed only 198 bills in 2003, relatively low compared to federal agencies.

Clyde Wayne Crews of the Competitive Enterprise Institute argues that regulations should be treated as federal spending; Congress should be held accountable for compliance costs by studying the actual benefits versus the costs. Since agencies police themselves, however, they tend to overstate the benefits; therefore, a third party must be included in the review process.

Additionally, Congress should be required to vote on rules imposed by agencies before they become binding, and to disclose costs to the public for all regulations, even those that pass congressional muster.

Source: Clyde Wayne Crews, Jr., "Federal Regulations Back to Near-Record Levels," Heartland Institute, August 2004; and "Informing Regulatory Decisions: 2004 Draft Report to Congress on the Costs and Benefits of Federal Regulations and Unfunded Mandates on State, Local and Tribal Entities," Office of Management and Budget, August 2004.


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