Obama-era regulations less plentiful than portrayed, report says


Charges by Republicans and some in business that the Obama administration has unleashed a flurry of regulations during the past three and a half years do not stand up to careful analysis, according to a new study by the nonprofit OMB Watch.

In a report titled “The Regulatory Tsunami That Wasn't,” regulatory analysts Randy Rabinowitz and Matt La Tronica compared cross-administration data from the White House Office Information and Regulatory Affairs and concluded that during the first 42 months of the Clinton administration, OIRA approved 76 percent more rules than the Obama administration and during a comparable period for the first George W. Bush administration approved more than 5 percent more rules.

“There is little difference between the Obama administration and past administrations in their overall level of regulatory activity,” they wrote. “The number of pending regulations leading into this election year is remarkably similar to comparable time periods under past administrations and does not provide any evidence of plans for an avalanche of regulations to come.”

Focusing on regulations estimated to have economic impact greater than $100 million, OMB Watch did find an increase in the number of “significant rules” under Obama -- 55 (or 38 percent) more economically significant rules than during the same period under Bush and 53 (or 36 percent) more than under Clinton. “But that has been driven by the statutory and judicial deadlines the Obama administration faced and by regulatory actions left uncompleted by prior administrations,” the analysts wrote. “While a significant increase, this is hardly a ‘tsunami,’ ” the report said, adding that some of the increase in significant rules can be explained by inflation.

“The overheated rhetoric about the number of regulations finalized under this administration demonstrates a lack of understanding about the rule-making process," said Katherine McFate, the nonpartisan group’s president and chief executive officer.

The National Association of Manufacturers, asked by Government Executive for a response, pointed to a study that Nera Economic Consulting released in August on behalf of the Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation. It found that growth in the cost of major regulations since 1998 “has far exceeded manufacturing sector growth and overall economic growth. In that span, the cumulative inflation-adjusted cost of compliance for major manufacturing-related regulations grew by an annualized rate of 7.6 percent,” the study said. “Over this same period, annual growth in the physical volume of manufacturing sector output averaged a mere 0.4 percent while U.S. inflation-adjusted GDP growth averaged 2.2 percent per year.”

The manufacturers report counted 2,183 unique regulations promulgated between 1981 and April 2012, saying major rules could reduce manufacturing output by up to 6 percent during the next decade, particularly in the energy sector.

The agencies imposing “the largest regulatory burden,” the study said, are the Environmental Protection Agency (972 regulations total), followed by the Transportation, Labor and Energy departments.

(Image via Kalim/Shutterstock.com)

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.