Getting the economic facts right during the House regulatory debate

This week, the House of Representatives is expected to vote on two regulatory reform bills: H.R. 3010, the Regulatory Accountability Act (RAA), and H.R. 527, the Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act. These bills would alter the regulatory process significantly, likely severely restricting the adoption of new regulations. In advancing these bills, proponents argue that regulations have become exorbitantly costly and are a large threat to jobs. These claims do not hold up to scrutiny, and are frequently made in a greatly exaggerated or substantially misleading manner.

EPI has issued a series of reports this year that assess these claims.  The evidence we have compiled, which I summarized in two recent EPI publications, might be of particular interest this week.

A quick guide to EPI’s research on the costs and benefits of regulations” describes three main findings:

  • Government data show that over several decades, and during the Obama administration as well, the benefits of regulations have significantly and consistently exceeded their costs.
  • The much-scrutinized EPA regulations fare especially well according to cost-benefit criteria. The compliance costs of Obama EPA regulations are tiny relative to the size of the economy, are neutralized by their economic benefits, and are dwarfed by their health benefits.
  • Regulatory opponents often cite large cost estimates that are entirely unsupportable. This conclusion particularly applies to their repeated use of the Crain and Crain $1.75 trillion estimate of the costs of regulation, which our own research, the Congressional Research Service, the Administration’s Council of Economic Advisers, and the Center for Progressive Reform have found is unreliable and grossly overstated.

A quick guide to the evidence on regulations and jobs,” also has three main findings:

  • A huge shortfall in demand, not regulatory uncertainty, is what ails the economy.
  • New EPA regulations, in particular, can be expected to have a negligible effect on the overall economy. The largest EPA regulation proposed so far (the “air toxics” rule) would, in fact, likely create a modest number of jobs.
  • Academic studies of and data on the relationship between employment and regulations generally find they have a modestly positive or neutral effect on employment.

Throughout the past year, the case against regulations has been driven by inaccurate overestimates of the economic damage they cause. As Congressional debate over sweeping regulatory reform bills proceeds this week, these erroneous claims are likely to be repeated, potentially contributing to the adoption of legislation damaging to the rules necessary to promote public health and safety, as well as economic stability.  It is an important time to compare these claims to the facts documented by EPI research this year.