Debunking the myth of Obama's regulatory record

Today’s resignation of regulatory czar Cass Sunstein has revived a myth about President Obama’s record on regulation. Let’s be clear: This president’s regulatory reforms pale in comparison to the vast number rules he’s imposed on Americans.

In just the first three years of Obama’s presidency, his administration added 106 new major federal regulations at a cost of more than $46 billion per year.

Sunstein, the liberal media darling who headed the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, will return to his previous post at Harvard Law School. While working for the White House, Susnstein’s job was to oversee regulations throughout the federal government. Glenn Beck called him “the most dangerous czar.”

The announcement prompted the typical flattering statements from the White House that Politico’s Mike Allen carried verbatim. They praised Sunstein for saving “billions” with his reform efforts. Of course, missing from the story was any mention of the costly regulations that the administration has also implemented.

Obama’s statement:

Cass has shepherded our review of existing rules to get rid of those that cost too much or no longer make sense, an effort that is already on track to save billions of dollars.  With these reforms and his tenacious promotion of cost-benefit analysis, his efforts will benefit Americans for years to come.

Jeffrey Zients, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget:

Cass also oversaw the historic government-wide regulatory ‘lookback,’ designed to streamline, improve, and sometimes eliminate existing rules — helping businesses, consumers, and workers alike. That effort has already produced over $10 billion in five-year savings, along with the elimination of tens of millions of hours in annual paperwork burdens.

There’s more to the story. And in this case, it’s worth debunking, once again, the well-worn myth of Obama’s record on regulatory issues.

Obama famously declared in this year’s State of the Union: “I’ve approved fewer regulations in the first three years of my presidency than my Republican predecessor did in his.” The Heritage Foundation’s James Gattuso and Diane Katz ran the numbers. And Obama shouldn’t be bragging.

As the chart shows, Obama was misleading the American people. While talking about the total number of regulations, he failed to mention that his administration’s major new rules were far greater in number and costlier than those adopted under President George W. Bush. It was a point that Sunstein made as well, earning him a “Pinocchio” from the Washington Post for “omitting important facts.”

It should also be noted that some of Bush’s actions “eased government constraints” on Americans, according to Gattuso and Katz.

Last week as the U.S. House considered a package of regulatory reforms, USA Today reported the White House is holding back on some of its most expensive and controversial regulations. In the meantime, red tape will continue to strangle the U.S. economy and American businesses, as Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) articulated so well in a floor speech that when viral last week:

Rob Bluey directs the Center for Media and Public Policy, an investigative journalism operation at The Heritage Foundation. Follow him on Twitter: @RobertBluey

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