White House Quietly Releases Report Highlighting Benefits of Regulations

President Trump prepares to cut the “red tape” of regulations during a photo op at the White House on Dec. 14, 2017. President Trump prepares to cut the “red tape” of regulations during a photo op at the White House on Dec. 14, 2017. Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead

In stark contrast to the Trump administration’s denunciations of red tape over the past year, the White House late Friday published a mandatory summary of the overall costs and benefits of regulations—showing that governmentwide, the benefits far outweighed the costs.

The draft report from the Office of Management and Budget is required annually under the 2000 Regulatory Right to Know Act. It estimated annual monetized benefits of major federal regulations from Oct. 1, 2006, to Sept. 30, 2016, are in the aggregate between $219 billion and $695 billion. In contrast, the estimated annual costs are in the aggregate between $59 billion and $88 billion (reported in 2001 dollars). 

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Cautioning that the estimates are rough and vary by agency, the report restated the balance favoring benefits over costs in 2015 dollars, putting benefits at between $287 billion and $911 billion, and costs between $78 billion and $115 billion.

That contrasts sharply with the positions taken by Neomi Rao, administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, who stresses the burdens and costs of Obama administration rules.

The draft report also comes as news outlets look back at Trump’s past year of pushing deregulation and question the administration’s numbers, ties to industry and assurances that health and safety benefits are not being shortchanged.

In its introduction to the report seeking public comment, OMB struck a tone more consistent with its deregulatory approach: “New circumstances provide an opportunity to take a fresh look at how each of these analyses is conducted, and whether OMB is providing the public with the optimal level and scope of information,” it said.

“For example, for rules that have been repealed under the Congressional Review Act, we are considering whether to follow a different convention, such as removing such rules completely, or reporting them separately. OMB is also considering whether we should adjust the reporting of the costs and benefits of revised rules, if a subsequent analysis suggests those original [regulatory impact analyses] did not adequately analyze impacts, or if subsequent analysis suggests that the impacts are different than originally expected.”

Some critics on the left seized on the mandatory report as a sign that the Trump approach is contradicted by evidence showing monetized benefits to be nearly 12 times higher than costs.

“This report fundamentally undercuts the justification for President Donald Trump’s deregulatory agenda by showing that the benefits of federal regulation in protecting public health and safety as well as our environment and economy significantly outweigh the costs to corporations,” said Amit Narang, regulatory policy advocate for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch Division, in a statement on Monday.

“It is not surprising that the administration missed the deadline for releasing this report by months and then sought to avoid media and public attention by releasing it late Friday evening.”

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