Regulatory Studies Center
The George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center, in the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration, raises awareness of regulations’ effects and improves regulatory policy through research, education, and outreach.
Join our mailing list for occasional updates and a subscription to the weekly Regulation Digest. Send an e-mail with "Subscribe" in the subject line to email@example.com. Follow us on Twitter @RegStudies.
Costs of New Regulations issued in 2012 Dwarf those of Previous Years, according to OMB Report
Susan E. Dudley, Director
By the administration’s own estimates, the rules it issued in FY2012 alone imposed more costs on the economy than all the rules issued during the entire first terms of Presidents Bush and Clinton, combined.
Source: OMB 2013 Draft Report to Congress on the Benefits and Costs of Federal Regulations Appendix tables D-1 – D-3. OMB reports data by fiscal years except the first year of each president’s term, which begins on January 20th of that year.
In the News
- Experts call for outside panel to weed out useless regulations, The Hill, May 9, 2013
- Flood of new regulations made Obama’s first term costliest in history, The Examiner, May 2, 2013
- Is Obama really reducing regulatory burdens?, The Examiner, May 2, 2013
- Report: 2012 Regulatory Rules More Costly than All Rules in 'Entire First Terms of Presidents Bush and Clinton, Combined', The Weekly Standard, April 23, 2013
- Congress Wants to Tell Americans How to Be More Efficient? Really?, The Foundry, April 17, 2013
Regulation: A Primer
The GW Regulatory Studies Center is proud to announce the release of Regulation: A Primer by RSC Director Susan E. Dudley and Mercatus Senior Research Fellow Jerry Brito. The Primer provides an accessible overview of regulatory theory, analysis, and practice, offering insights into the different varieties of regulation and how to analyze whether a regulatory proposal would make citizens better off. A free PDF version of the Primer is available on the Regulatory Studies Center website; Kindle editions of the Primer are available for purchase on Amazon for $3.99, and hard copies can be purchased for $8.00.
Regulatory Policy Commentary
Pace of New Regulations up in President Obama’s First Term
Cassidy West, Program Analyst
May 15, 2013
Executive branch agencies are required by Executive Order and statute to measure the impact of regulations, using both ex ante and ex post analyses. Agencies conduct analyses that seek to quantify regulations’ costs and benefits, economic impact, and distributional effects, along with whether the regulation is meeting the policy goals of the President. Measuring the reach and impact of these regulations is difficult though, and analysts look to various proxies in an attempt to measure the effects of regulations over time.
Some of the measures that are used to understand regulations’ effects include the number of pages published in the Federal Register, number of pages in the Code of Federal Regulations, the budgets of regulatory agencies, and the costs and benefits of most significant rules. The Mercatus Center’s regulatory report card grades agencies on the quality of their regulatory impact analyses, and its RegData project seeks to measure other indicators such as the level of regulation in specific industries and the number of regulatory restrictions.
One of the more reliable statistics used to measure regulatory activity is the number of economically significant rules issued by executive branch agencies yearly. Executive Order 12866 gives the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, in the Office of Management and Budget, the authority to review regulations of executive branch agencies, and to designate those that are “economically significant.” The definition of an economically significant regulation (generally having an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more) has remained relatively constant since 1981, making it a valuable measure of regulatory activity across presidential administrations – from Reagan to Obama.
Final Economically Significant Rules published between February 1 and January 31 of the following year.
Excludes regulations issued by independent regulatory agencies, which are not subject to OIRA review.
The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs and the General Services Administration keep a database of the regulations OIRA reviews, and the disposition of those reviews. The above graph shows the number of economically significant final rules published by “presidential year,” which we define as from February 1 to January 31 of the following year. Although the number of published rules fluctuates by year, the record of the three previous presidential administrations is remarkably consistent. Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush, each published an average of 45 economically significant executive branch regulations a year over their terms. President Reagan was an outlier, issuing an average of 20 regulations per year during his administration.
Now that the data are available for presidential year 2012, it appears that executive agencies published an average of 54 economically significant rules over President Obama’s first term, or 9 more per year on average than the last 3 presidents. Comparing administrations’ first terms, the Obama Administration issued 50 more economically significant regulations than the Bush Administration, 39 more than the Clinton Administration, and 159 more than the Reagan Administration. With 2013 underway, it is not yet certain whether this pattern will continue.