Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s new proposals to gauge the impact of federal regulations on the economy could be long overdue. Regulatory-agency spending has surged 1,700 percent in the past half-century.
Federal regulations cover everything from pollution limits on power plants to health standards for school lunches, and they are compiled in the Code of Federal Regulations and published in the Federal Register.
The Register’s first volume, published in 1936, contained 2,620 pages. In 2012, it contained 77,249 pages, an increase of 2,848 percent. Over the past decade, it averaged 75,413 pages a year, according to The American, the journal of the American Enterprise Institute.
Its largest editions were in two years of the Obama administration — 2010 and 2011 —with 81,405 pages and 81,247 pages, respectively.
Administrative rules that have an anticipated economic impact of at least $100 million a year totaled 106 during the first three years of the Obama administration, for a total estimated cost of $46 billion a year, compared to 28 major regulations during the first three years of the George W. Bush administration.
What’s more, hundreds of new administrative rules will be enforced during Obama’s second term under the Affordable Care Act and Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform laws.
Sen. Rubio told Newsmax that his two proposals are The Regulatory Cost to Small Business Act — which would require the Small Business Administration to do an annual study to determine the total cost of federal regulations to small businesses and the American economy — and the Regulation Cost to America Act, requiring a determination of the impact on the general economy.
While the overall economic impact of federal regulations may be unclear, the cost to the taxpayers is easier to gauge.
The American cites research estimating that total spending by regulatory agencies on social and economic regulations, in 2005 dollars, rose from $2.7 billion in fiscal 1960 to about $51.6 billion in fiscal 2012, a 1,700 percent increase.
Of the $51 billion, $42.4 billion was spent on regulations related to health, safety, security, and the environment.
Regulatory agencies enforcing those rules employed 283,615 full-time federal workers last year, an increase of 397 percent from 1960.
The American concludes: “What is clear from the explosive growth in America’s regulatory burden — measured by the significant increases in pages of regulatory rules at the federal level, spending by regulatory agencies, and the number of federal employees administering regulations — is that the notion of a ‘cowboy capitalist’ America with minimal regulatory interference from the federal government is clearly inaccurate.”