MYTHBUSTER: Federal Regulations


Speaker Boehner this morning before a gathering of conservatives in Washington, DC:

Our nation is “facing a federal regulatory onslaught like nothing we’ve ever seen.”

Speaker Boehner and Congressional Republicans are misleading Americans when they claim the Obama Administration has been responsible for a crush of new regulations that are undermining the American economy. The facts prove this myth patently false:

Bloomberg–Obama Wrote Fewer Rules Than Bush, Cost More:

President Barack Obama’s “tsunami” of new government regulations looks more like a summer swell.

Obama’s White House has approved fewer regulations than his predecessor George W. Bush at this same point in their tenures, and the estimated costs of those rules haven’t reached the annual peak set in fiscal 1992 under Bush’s father, according to government data reviewed by Bloomberg News…

Obama’s White House approved 613 federal rules during the first 33 months of his term, 4.7 percent fewer than the 643 cleared by President George W. Bush’s administration in the same time frame, according to an Office of Management and Budget statistical database reviewed by Bloomberg…

In the last 12 months through the end of September, the cost range of new regulations is estimated to be $8 billion to $9 billion, a decrease from 2010, according to non-partisan Government Accountability Office reports analyzed by Bloomberg. That total put the average annual cost of regulations under Obama at about $7 billion to $11 billion, compared with the $6.9 billion average from 1981 through 2008 in current dollars, according to the OMB data.

The record came in 1992 under George H.W. Bush when that total hit $20.9 billion in current dollars. In the last year of Ronald Reagan’s term it was $16 billion in today’s dollars… [10/25]

As the Washington Monthly’s Steve Benen puts it:

…every element of the Republican argument is demonstrably false. The GOP talking point is predicated on the notion that there’s been an unprecedented wave of new regulations, undermining the economy, and harming the country. None of this is even remotely true… [10/26]

And Kevin Drum with Mother Jones:

I’m not sure how many ways it’s possible to debunk a single meme, but in this case it’s a helluva lot. It turns out that (a) Obama has issued fewer regulations than Bush, (b) adjusted for inflation, they cost less than the average over the past 30 years, (c) this doesn’t take into account the benefits of any of his regs anyway, and (d) only about 0.3% of mass layoffs during the Great Recession were related to new regulatory issues. [10/26]

UPDATE: The Washington Post gives a related claim from Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) “Three Pinocchios”:

“You have 219 new regulations coming out, costing over $100 million each.” 

— Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Oct. 27, 2011

As much as we try to expose wrongheaded rhetoric in today’s political debates, some of these “facts” keep popping up. It sometimes really feels like whack-a-mole.

 Imagine our surprise on Thursday when we saw that Rep. Paul Ryan made the statement above concerning federal regulations on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”  We thought we had driven a stake through this myth when we gave three Pinocchios to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in early September for making virtually the same statement.

 As we detailed then, there are serious problems with that “219” figure. Many of the regulations had no due date for completion; others had already been completed. The rules are listed as being economically significant if they have “economic impact” of $100 million, which could mean costs, benefits or both. It is incorrect to assume all of the potential regulations have only costs.

 Moreover, after our column appeared, the source of the figure — Susan E. Dudley, director of the George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center — decided to do a deeper examination of the data. She found that the number of pending regulations that met the $100 million threshold in the database she examined was actually 158. There were also limitations in the database.

It is also worth noting that Bloomberg News this week reported that “Obama’s White House has approved fewer regulations than his predecessor George W. Bush at this same point in their tenures, and the estimated costs of those rules haven’t reached the annual peak set in fiscal 1992 under Bush’s father.”

Paul Ryan needs to get his talking points updated. He gets Three Pinocchios.

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