Federal Regulations (Lots of Them!) Impact Most Americans

The Cato Institute has issued a report on the economic impact of federal regulations on the American economy.

Federal agencies issue lots of regulations.

In a way, regulations are strange creations. They are pervasive and they have the effect of law but are not created by Congress. Usually anyone can comment on regulations if they can find them in the Federal Register or perhaps on an agency’s web site but generally the public is unaware of them.

How many regulations are created each year? According to the Cato Institute, 4,148 final rules were issued by agencies in 2003. In contrast, Congress passed and President Bush signed into law 198 new bills that became law.

Here are some other findings on federal regulations from the Cato Institute.

–Another 4,266 regulations were at various stages of implementation throughout the government in 2003, an increase of 2 percent from the previous year.

–Of the 4,266 regulations now in process, 127 are “economically significant” rules that will have at least $100 million in economic impact. Those rules will impose at least $12.7 billion yearly in future off-budget costs.

–The five most active rule-producing agencies

(the Departments of Treasury, Transportation, Homeland Security, USDA and EPA) produce 46 percent of rules under consideration.

–The Office of Management and Budget’s latest report on the costs and benefits of federal regulations finds cumulative

1993–2004 costs of major regulations to be between $34 and $39 billion while noting benefits of all rules range from $62

billion to $168 billion.

— Regulatory costs are more than twice the $375 billion budget deficit.

— Federal regulatory costs of $869 billion combined with outlays of $2,158 billion bring the federal government’s share of the economy to about 27 percent.

— Regulatory costs exceed all corporate pretax profits, which were $665 billion in 2002.

— Regulatory costs exceed estimated 2003 individual income taxes of $849 billion, and are far greater than corporate

income taxes of $143 billion.

The report suggests that Congress should approve “all significant regulations.” That will have some appeal, especially to Americans who would prefer to have less government interference or regulation of their daily lives and businesses. On the other hand, will Congress get around to approving them before or after they complete the annual budget–which is often approved months after the start of the new fiscal year?

You can download the complete report from the link on the left hand side of the page.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47