The White House is on the political offensive, and one of its chief claims is that it isn’t the overregulator of business and Republican lore. This line has been picked up by impressionable columnists, so it’s a good time to consider the evidence in some detail.
Jan Eberly, an Assistant Treasury Secretary, kicked off the Administration campaign with a white paper in October that purported to debunk the “misconceptions” that “uncertainty is holding back business investment and hiring and that the overall burden of existing regulations is so high that firms have reduced their hiring.” Then the Administration mobilized some of the worst offenders, such as Kathleen Sebelius of HHS (“There has been no explosion of new rules”) and Lisa Jackson of the EPA (her opponents are “using the economy as cover”).
To answer the most basic question—has regulation increased?—we’ll focus on what the government defines as “economically significant” regulations. Those are rules that impose more than $100 million in annual costs on the economy, though there are hundreds if not thousands of new rules every year that fall well short of that.
Close…According to an analysis of the Federal Register by George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, the Cabinet departments and agencies finalized 84 such regulations annually on average in President Obama’s first two years. The annual average under President Bush was 62 and under President Clinton 56.
Cass Sunstein, the director of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, has been shopping around lower numbers that selectively compare Mr. Obama’s first two years favorably with Mr. Bush’s last two. Administrations are typically most active on the way out, and in any case the Bush regulatory record is nothing to crow about. But Mr. Sunstein’s numbers are even more misleading because they only include the rules that his office reviews while excluding the prolific “independent” agencies such as the Federal Communications Commission.
This gets you right under the graph showing increasing regulations:http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000…pinion_LEADTop