Annual Report on Regulatory Costs Seeks to Hold Congress Accountable; Shows Federal Register Pages and “Economically Significant” Rules on the Rise
Washington, D.C., May 15, 2012 – The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) released the expanded 2012 edition of Ten Thousand Commandments: An Annual Snapshot of the Federal Regulatory State yesterday.
CEI Vice President for Policy Wayne Crews authors the report every year to draw attention to the “hidden tax” of regulations—a cost often imposed not by legislators, but by unelected federal bureaucrats.
When lawmakers and government officials spend public funds on new initiatives, they properly expose themselves to taxpayers’ approval or criticism. But, Crews explains, when federal agencies advance government goals by regulating the private sector, the costs of their activity are hidden from public view. Crews writes, “Rather than pay directly and book expenses for new initiatives, the federal government can require the private sector, as well as state and local governments, to pay for federal initiatives through compliance costs.”
While the exact cost of federal regulations can never be known, the Small Business Administration has estimated annual complaince costs of well over $1 trillion since the mid-2000s. The most recent evaluation, a controversial one based on data and information available in 2008, was $1.7 trillion.
Meanwhile, numbers of rules, pages in the Federal Register, and economically significant rules are rising under President Obama.
Below are highlights from the 2012 edition of Ten Thousand Commandments:
- â€¢ Estimated regulatory costs, while “off budget,” are equivalent to over 48% the level of federal spending itself.
- â€¢ The 2011 Federal Register finished at 81,247 pages, just shy of 2010’s all-time record-high 81,405 pages.
- â€¢ Regulatory compliance costs dwarf corporate income taxes of $198 billion, and exceed individual income taxes and even pre-tax corporate profits.
- â€¢ Agencies issued 3,807 final rules in 2011, a 6.5 percent increase over 3,573 in 2010.
- â€¢ Of the 4,128 regulations in the works at year-end 2011, 212 were “economically significant,” meaning they generally wield at least $100 million in economic impact.
- â€¢ 822 of those 4,128 regulations in the works would affect small businesses.
- â€¢ The total number of economically significant rules finalized in 2011 was 79, down slightly from 2010 but up 92.7 percent over five years, and 108 percent over 10 years.
- â€¢ Recent costly federal agency initiatives include the Environmental Protection Agency’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards Rule and the Department of Transportation’s Fuel Economy Standards.
The report includes a spotlight feature on the Federal Communications Commission, further analysis of trends in the numbers of regulations, and an appendix of historical tables. Crews also proposes reforms that would improve regulatory transparency and restore accountability to Congress, who, Crews argues, should bear “direct responsibility for every dollar of new regulatory costs.”
Nicole W. Ciandella is a Media Coordinator in the Communications Department. She graduated from McGill University in 2009 with a B.A. in Cultural Studies and Philosophy.
The Competitive Enterprise Institute is a non-profit public policy organization dedicated to advancing the principles of limited government, free enterprise, and individual liberty. Our mission is to promote both freedom and fairness by making good policy good politics. We make the uncompromising case for economic freedom because we believe it is essential for entrepreneurship, innovation, and prosperity to flourish.