Federal Regs Eat up $231 Billion, 133 Million Paperwork Hours

Published January 4, 2012

Federal regulations in 2011 added more than $231 billion in regulatory costs to private businesses and state and local governments and required 133 million hours of paperwork, according to a report by the Washington, DC-based American Action Forum.

The organization pored over the Federal Register and determined 66,730 employees would be needed just to file federal paperwork, based on a 2,000-hour work year. The financial costs and paperwork totals were derived by adding up the government’s own estimates for the regulations, which totaled 78,464 pages in 2011.

‘Price Paid by Job Creators’

“With partisan gridlock on Capitol Hill, the Obama administration used regulations as the path of least resistance in advancing its agenda, and this report details the price paid by job creators,” said Sam Batkins, the Forum’s director of regulatory policy.

“Although these new regulations may appease the various interest groups in the ‘progressive’ coalition, they will have a devastating impact on job creators in the midst of our current economic struggles,” Batkins said. “Hundreds of billions of dollars and millions of hours spent complying with these new rules are dollars and time not spent hiring new workers and researching and developing innovative products. Any serious strategy to promote economic growth will include a reduction of the onerous regulations imposed last year.”

Expensive, Burdensome

The most expensive and burdensome regulations in 2011 includeL

  • CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards for light-duty vehicles: $141.4 billion.
  • The utility MACT (Maximum Achievable Control Technology) rule requiring power plants to reduce emissions of mercury and certain other pollutants: $10.9 billion.
  • Greenhouse gas standards for long-haul and heavy duty trucks: $8.1 billion.
  • Conservation standards for lamp ballasts. Cost: $6.9 billion.
  • Federal school lunch standards: $6.8 billion.

Regulations requiring the greatest expenditures of time on paperwork include:

  • Employee rights notification: 12 million hours.
  • Medicaid eligibility changes under the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare): 11.07 million hours.
  • Railroad conductor certification: 10.99 million hours.
  • Investment advice changes: 8.8 million hours.
  • CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) annual transparency reporting: 7.99 million hours.

Down from 82,840 Pages

Batkins noted 2011 may have been an improvement from 2010 in some ways, when the Obama administration published 82,480 pages of regulations, including the Affordable Care Act and the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory bill, each of which totaled more than 2,000 pages in length.

Obama took heat for these and other behemoth bills and responded with Executive Order 13563, which called for an analysis of “outdated, ineffective, insufficient, or excessively burdensome” regulations. In 2011, agencies finalized $187 million in deregulatory actions and proposed more than $1.1 billion in regulatory rollbacks.