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Obama Regulation Overview Yields a Phony Four Reforms

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A 180 degree difference from what they say and what they do has become standard-operating-procedure at the Obama White House.  Take government regulation, for example.   In the middle of the deepest and longest sustained economic downturn since the Great Depression, the Obama Administration cranked out new regulation faster than Oscar Meyer makes hot dogs.


Not surprisingly, there was push-back, to which the ever populist politician President responded with great fanfare that he was opening a government wide hunting season for excessive regulations; a “retrospective review.”  It should have been pretty easy hunting given that the Federal Register is more than 80,000 pages of rules covering every nook and cranny of Americans lives.  In a Wall Street Journal op-ed in January 2011, Obama said that “rules have gotten out of balance, placing unreasonable burdens on business – burdens that have stifled innovation and have had a chilling effect on growth and jobs.”  Sounding very much like he’d gotten the message about over regulation, Obama said the goal of this review would be to “remove outdated regulations that stifle job creation and make our economy less competitive.” 

A year later, the White House announced the results of their effort highlighting just four regulations they found and targeted for reform.  It sounded pretty weak at the time, but a new analysis by James Gattuso and Diane Katz of the Heritage Foundation indicates it was an even bigger sham that first expected.

“The Administration claimed that its reforms would, if implemented, reduce regulatory costs by $10 billion per year. But little or none of this reduction has materialized. Of the four major actions in 2011 that reduced regulatory burdens, none were the product of the regulatory review initiative. Three—involving air cargo screening, family investment advisors, and debit-card price controls—were modifications of recently imposed regulatory burdens. The fourth, the exemption of milk from “oil spill” regulations, was highlighted in the President’s State of the Union speech as an example of the success of the review. In reality, it had been proposed by the EPA in January 2009, and put on hold when the Obama Administration came into office.”      


We had a pretty good indication of where this retrospective review was headed already in June 2011.   Obama’s regulatory czar Cass Sunstein offered a rebuttal to the growing criticism that the administration was compounding rather than relaxing excessive regulation.  In the Washington Post Sunstein wrote that “the annual cost of regulations has not increased during the Obama administration….there has been no increase in rulemaking in this administration.”

That was a whopper, and Sunstein most certainly had to know it.  Instead of really hunting down regulations to whack during 2011, the administration was pumping out more like water gushing from a fire hose.   Here’s what Gattuso and Katz discovered:

“Despite the weak economy, the Obama Administration continued to increase the regulatory burden on Americans in 2011, adding 32 major regulations that increase regulatory burdens, almost $10 billion in annual costs, and $6.6 billion in one-time implementation costs. From the beginning of the Obama Administration through 2011, a staggering 106 major regulations that increase regulatory burdens have been issued, with costs exceeding $46 billion. While the President has acknowledged the need to rein in regulation, the steps taken to date have been meager.”

“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 amount is about five times the cost imposed by the prior Administration of George W. Bush.”


The Heritage report utilized the government’s own analysis to determine financial impact and status as “major” rules and regulations – those in excess of $100 million of additional cost annually to the economy.  But, the authors explain that agencies self-evaluations are typically understated and that many of the rules categorized as “non-major” are really quite substantial.

In addition to the enormous onslaught of new regulations in the last three years, Gattuso and Katz found that much more is on the way. 

“Dozens more regulations were slated for 2011, but the Administration failed to meet statutory deadlines. According to business consultancy Davis Polk, 225 Dodd–Frank rulemaking deadlines have passed. Of these, 164—more than seven of 10—have been missed. Regulators have not yet even released proposals for 24 of the 164 missed rules.”

“The most recent Unified Agenda (also known as the Semiannual Regulatory Agenda)—a bi-annual compendium of planned regulatory actions as reported by agencies lists 2,576 rules (proposed and final) in the pipeline. The largest proportion—505 rulemakings—is from the Treasury Department, the SEC, and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission—all tasked with issuing hundreds of rules under the massive Dodd–Frank statute. The Environmental Protection Agency is responsible for 174 others, while 133 are from the Department of Health and Human Services, reflecting, in part, the regulatory requirements of Obamacare.”


“Of the 2,576 pending rulemakings in the fall 2011 agenda, 133 are classified as ‘economically significant.’ With each of these expected to cost at least $100 million annually, they represent a total additional burden of at least $13.3 billion every year.”

Shortly before the White House announced the phony four reforms as the result of the supposed year-long government wide exhaustive review, the head Democrat in the Senate, Harry Reid, mocked efforts by Republicans in the House to provide some real regulation relief saying that “there aren’t any”  regulations that “do broad economic harms.”  For the Democrats in Congress and the Central Planners in the Obama Administration more government is always a good thing – it’s how they “spread the love.”  Obama believes that all the rules and regulations “make our economy stronger and more competitive” while satisfying a moral obligation to meet “our fundamental responsibilities to one another.” 

If that is true, then at the rate we’re going the economy ought to be really strong very soon, and whatever moral responsibilities we had yet to satisfy to our fellow man should soon be resolved.  Because, as Gattuso and Katz documented, the already bloated Federal Register exploded from 68,598 pages in 2009 to 82,415 pages by the end of 2011 – a 20% increase – and, again, a great deal more is on the way. 


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