Dollars

Federal Regulatory Spending

Regulatory spending measures are an important part of understanding American federalism because of the changing economic burden that agency rules can impose on states. Measuring regulatory activity is, however, very difficult. There are no reliable sources for assessing the benefits of regulatory burdens, for example; neither is there an agreed upon method to calculate the full costs of regulations to society, business, or the autonomy states and local governments. The following card summaries only attempt to offer a starting point for users interested in the growth and/or changing composition of regulatory activity over time.

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Regulations are an important part of understanding American federalism, not least because of the changing economic burden that agency rules can impose on states. Measuring regulatory activity is notoriously difficult. There are no reliable sources for assessing the benefits of regulatory burdens, for example; neither is there an agreed upon method to calculate the full costs of regulations to society, business, or the autonomy states and local governments. The following card summaries only attempt to offer a starting point for users interested in the growth and/or changing composition of regulatory activity over time. The first card (below) represents the share of rules created by Congress from 2003-2018, as a portion or by comparison to the number of rules issued by hundreds of federal agencies.***

A public law is defined as an enacted bill or joint resolution. Lists of public laws per year are available at the

Public Laws page, at Congress.gov. A Final Rule is defined as a regulatory document that has "general applicability and legal affect." A collection of final rules are available on the Federal Register (see Federal Register, 1936 to Present ).

The Regulatory Studies Center at George Washington University, in collaboration with the Weidenbaum Center on the Economy, Government, and Public Policy, provide figures that allow users to understand the distribution of federal regulatory activity in to social and economic regulation. Social regulation includes regulatory agencies or activities that focus on health, safety, security, or the environment . Economic regulation addresses industries using "economic controls." For analysis, see "Regulator's Budget: Homeland Security Remains Key Administration Priority: An Analysis of the U.S. Budget for Fiscal years 1960-2020," by Mark Febrizio, Melinda Warren, and Susan Dudley.

The Weidenbaum Center on the Economy, Government, and Public Policy, jointly with the George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center provide in-depth analysis on the composition of Social and Economic regulation spending. Below: these two series present an estimate of direct taxpayer costs through the administration and enforcement and development of social and economic rules and regulations. These datasets capture the spending and staffing of more than 77 federal departments and agencies from select years from FY 1960 to 2020. For analysis, see

"Regulator's Budget: Homeland Security Remains Key Administration Priority: An Analysis of the U.S. Budget for Fiscal years 1960-2020,

" by Mark Febrizio, Melinda Warren, and Susan Dudley.

Highlights

1.

In 1960, Total Spending on Federal Regulatory Activity amounted to $4,014 Million in 2012 constant Dollars. In 2020, Total spending was estimated at $66,246 Million in 2012 constant Dollars, representing a total estimated increase of 1,550% in outlays on regulatory activity. 

2.

The regulatory burden in 2019 has been calculated to be as much as 40 percent of the level of federal spending (~ $4.4 trillion in 2019)

3.

In 2018, Congress enacted 313 laws. Agencies issued 3,368 rules. In effect, agencies issued 11 rules for every law passed by Congress and signed by the President. 

4.

More than 82 percent of proposed agency outlays focused on social regulation for 2020 

5.

The Weidenbaum Center at Washington University and the George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center jointly estimate that agencies spent $71.4 billion (FY 2018) to monitor and administer federal regulatory activities.

Sources
  • *Dudley, Susan, and Melinda Warren. Regulators’ Budget from Eisenhower to Obama An Analysis of the U.S. Budget for Fiscal Years 1960 through 2017. Publication no. 38. Regulatory Studies Center and Weidenbaum Center on the Economy, Government, and Public Policy, George Washington University and Washington University. Washington, D.C. and St. Louis, Missouri, 2017. 1-29. https://regulatorystudies2.drupal.gwu.edu/sites/g/files/zaxdzs3306/f/downloads/RegulatorsBudget/GW Reg Studies - FY2017 Regulators Budget - SDudley and MWarren.pdf.

  • Office of Management and Budget Historical Tables

  • **Crews, Clyde Wayne, Jr. Ten Thousand Commandments An Annual Snapshot of the Federal Regulatory State. Report. Competitive Enterprise Institute. 2019 ed. Washington, D.C. (pg. 4). https://cei.org/sites/default/files/10KC2019.pdf.

  • ***Crews, Clyde Wayne, Jr. "The 2019 Unconstitutionality Index." Competitive Enterprise Institution (blog), December 31, 2018. https://cei.org/blog/2019-unconstitutionality-index.

  • Annual Estimated Cost 2018: data sourced from Crews, Clyde Wayne, Jr. Tip of the Costberg: On the Invalidity of All Cost of Regulation Estimates and the Need to Compile Them Anyway, 2017 Edition. Working paper. Competitive Enterprise Institute. 2017 ed. 2017. 1-170. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2502883.

Recommended

  • "The Regulatory Budget Revisted." (Rosen and Callanan 2014, 835-860.)

  • Annual reports with analysis are by the Regulatory Studies Center, in joint efforts with the Weidenbaum Center on the Economy, Government, and Public Policy at Washington University in St. Louis.

  • "Trends in Federal Regulatory Spending, 1960-2010,"(De Rugy and Warren 2009)

  • "Trends in Federal Regulatory Staffing, 1960-2010,"(De Rugy and Warren 2009)

CCS Commentary

  • For an overview of the difficulties of evaluating the regulatory budget, see "The Limits of Thinking of a Regulatory Budget like a Fiscal Budget," (Shapiro 2019)

  • For a helpful analysis of the potential for the creation of a national Regulatory Budget, see "Regulatory Budgeting: Not Ready for Prime Time," (Gattuso 2016)

  • For a gold-standard analysis of the U.S. Budget from 1060 to 2020, see "Regulators' Budget: Homeland Security Remains Key Administration Priority: An Analysis of the U.S. Budget for Fiscal years 1960 to 2020" (Febrizio, Warren and Dudley 2020)

"If the on-budget regulatory costs of $1.9 trillion were a country, it would be the world's ninth-largest economy in 2018." - Crews, Clyde Wayne, Jr. Ten Thousand Commandments An Annual Snapshot of the Federal Regulatory State.

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