Since the midterms of 2010, federal regulations have been thrown into the spotlight as a prominent target of fiscal conservatives and Tea Partiers alike. They claim that regulations kill jobs, harm small businesses and are unnecessary government interventions in the free market. But is any of this actually true?
Part of the claim is true, but barely so. Federal regulations can hurt small businesses, but to a much lesser degree than what is claimed — large corporations and modern day monopolies wreak more havoc on small businesses than regulations and taxes.
As with nearly every study or set statistics, anomalies can be found in which a few points don’t correlate with what is being claimed. So the fact that some small businesses are harmed by federal regulations should not be shocking.
Yes, it is something we need to look at, but the answer isn’t to just say that small businesses no longer must abide by the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Clean Air Act Amendments, the Civil Rights Act and other regulatory standards put in place to ensure public safety.
The rest of the claims made against federal regulations are patently false. A report published in 2014 by the Office of Management and Budget, in which they studied the costs and benefits of federal regulations and unfunded mandates between 2003 and 2013, found that the regulations yielded more benefits than costs on the economy.
Between 2003 and 2013, “The estimated annual benefits of major Federal regulations reviewed by OMB … for which agencies estimated and monetized both benefits and costs (in 2001 dollars), are in the aggregate between $217 billion and $863 billion, while the estimated annual costs are in the aggregate between $57 billion and $84 billion.”
That means for every dollar spent on new federal regulations through departments like Health and Human Services, Labor, the EPA, Agriculture, etc., we the people received $10 back in measurable benefits: healthier people, better wages, etc.
Let me just repeat that. For every dollar spent, we received $10 back on our investment. Sounds like a wise investment, doesn’t it?
To get a better take on this, let’s look at the Department of Health and Human Services, which between 2003 and 2013, implemented 18 new federal rules for a price tag of $6.2 billion (measured in 2010 dollars). Sounds like a lot of money, right? Well, it isn’t when those 18 federal rules produced up to $45.2 billion in benefits, like healthier citizens, which results in less expense on health care.
For every dollar spent by HHS, we received a return of $7.
None of these returns on investment are more pronounced than the EPA, a favorite target of small government supporters. When measured in 2010 dollars, 34 new federal regulations from the EPA yielded up to $849.5 billion in benefits for the economy between 2003 and 2013, all for a price tag of just $46.1 billion dollars.
That’s a return of $18 for every dollar we spent.
After the publication of this study, it makes little sense to continue railing against federal regulations and falsely claiming they will destroy the economy. It’s simply not true.
What is true, however, is that federal regulations will hurt the pocketbooks of CEOs who profit off of poisoning the people with unbreathable air and undrinkable water — and having an unorganized, unskilled and lowly educated workforce among other things.
Caleb Snider is a sophomore in public relations. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to email@example.com.