The Regulator-in-Chief

By Thomas J. Donohue
President and CEO
U.S. Chamber of Commerce

It’s a fact: President Obama will leave the White House as one of the most prolific regulators in history.

Even The New York Times acknowledges that President Obama has “depended on bureaucratic bulldozing rather than legislative transparency” and that he’s “reshaped the nation with a sweeping assertion of executive authority and a canon of regulations that have inserted the United States government more deeply into American life.”

How far do these regulations reach? How much do they cost? What’s still to come? Since 2009, the federal government has issued 600 major regulations totaling $743 billion, according to a new study from the American Action Forum. Every year the administration has issued an average of 81 major rules — those with an impact of more than $100 million — or one major rule for every three days that the federal government is open. As The Wall Street Journal quipped, “Who says our bureaucracies are inefficient?”

President Obama has issued 50% more major regulations than President George W. Bush, according to the George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center. And the administration still has nearly five long months to go. In its final year, the administration is enacting some of its most ambitious rules, including limits on airborne silica at job sites, an overhaul of food labeling, a massive expansion of those eligible for overtime pay, blacklisting rules that make it harder for good companies to win government contracts, a fiduciary rule that will limit retirement options for small businesses, and new restrictions on energy exploration.

By the time President Obama turns out the lights in the Oval Office for the final time, the American Action Forum also projects that regulatory costs could balloon to $813 billion.

What does all this mean? Simply put, it means fewer jobs, higher prices, less growth, and an erosion of Americans’ personal economic freedoms. There’s plenty of blame to go around, from bureaucrats who skirt the rules to push regulations that fit their ideological goals to a Congress that writes vaguely worded laws that empower those same bureaucrats to fill in the details as they see fit. And don’t forget the president who pushed his executive authority to the limit — and beyond — because he couldn’t convince the people’s representatives to enact his agenda.

The business community supports reasonable and necessary regulations based on sound science and honest data. But for all the pundits and economists who are scratching their heads as to why we’re experiencing the worst economic recovery since World War II, our vast regulatory state is Exhibit A. We can thank the regulator-in-chief for that.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce