A Billion Here or There in Regulatory Costs

A famous quote that Everett Dirksen never really said, but thought sounded good, was, “A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon, you're talking real money.”

That sentiment at least was invoked yesterday by Thomas Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who has long railed against the costs of federal regulations borne by businesses.

According to the American Action Forum, which keeps a running tally, the total cost to employers of federal regulations finalized in 2016 is approaching $100 billion, or $99.269 billion to be more exact.

That's a lot of money

Sam Batkins, director of regulatory policy at AAF, writes a weekly column summarizing the cumulative costs and paperwork burdens imposed by federal regulations. There have been 240 regulations finalized in 2016, with an annual paperwork burden of 85.74 million hours.

Batkins said the new Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rule for federal contractors led this week. Total employer costs to comply with this rule will be $400.9 million annually.

In his Aug. 29 weekly commentary, Donohue wrote that this all 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,” Donohue wrote.

Still, for all the pundits and economists who are scratching their heads as to why the country is experiencing the worst economic recovery since World War II, “our vast regulatory state is Exhibit A,” Donohue said.

Many Democrats and public interest advocates argue that regulatory costs are too often proclaimed in isolation, without any comparison to their corresponding benefits.

In March, the Office of Management and Budget estimated the annual benefits of major federal regulations it reviewed from Oct. 1, 2004, to Sept. 30, 2014, were in the aggregate between $216 billion and $812 billion.