The Benefits of Regulation
Whether it’s our families, workers, entrepreneurs, businesses or communities, commonsense standards and safeguards benefit all of us. Just as important, regulations protect us from reckless CEOs and faceless corporations that would endanger our lives and our well-being.
Evidence shows that regulations are beneficial, popular and protect Americans from harm, while the costs of deregulation, no regulation and regulatory delays are prohibitive. Here are the facts:
Regulations are a spectacular investment.
We do not have to choose between jobs and commonsense safeguards that protect our pocketbooks, homes and workplaces.
Major regulations produced up to $800 billion in net benefits over the past decade – up to 12 times the costs – according to the Office of Management and Budget’s latest figures.
Regulating excessive credit card fees has saved U.S. consumers nearly $12 billion a year since the rules took effect.
When antitrust regulators at the U.S. Department of Justice stepped in to block a merger of AT&T and T-Mobile, it spurred an outbreak of competition in the telecom industry. Wireless carriers slashed prices while offering more services, saving consumers tens of billions of dollars.
Regulations save lives, keep us from getting sick and protect our food, air and water.
At the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the net benefits of rules are up to 21 times the costs. Keeping our air and water clean is one of the best investments we can make.
In 2010, Clean Air Act rules saved nearly 165,000 lives – a number that will only continue to grow. By 2020, these rules will save 237,000 lives each year.
Rules requiring automakers to equip vehicles with airbags, seat belts and child safety restraints save tens of thousands of lives every year.
Other new safeguards proposed and finalized during the Obama administration are saving more than 10,000 lives and preventing 300,000 cases of illness and injury each year.
The costs of deregulation, no regulation and regulatory delays are staggering.
The 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico cost more than $50 billion, disrupting the lives of millions of Gulf Coast residents, destroying many local small businesses and devastating local ecosystems.
The Wall Street crash of 2008 – resulting from decades of deregulation – cost Americans up to $14 trillion. In addition, 8.7 million people lost their jobs, and pension funds for American workers lost nearly a third of their value.
Blocking and delaying action on climate change will cost Americans up to $150 billion every year in economic damages and put tens of thousands of lives in danger from air pollution. By the end of the century, climate change could put nearly 2 million Americans homes underwater at a cost of nearly $900 billion to U.S. homeowners. Globally, the costs of runaway climate change are potentially apocalyptic.
Every year, the lack of effective workplace safety protections costs between $250 and $330 billion in injuries and illnesses. On average, 150 American workers die every day from occupational injuries and diseases.
Air pollution in the U.S. costs our economy more than $130 billion every year, but those costs are slowly coming down thanks to tougher rules and more enforcement.
Voters in both parties see the benefits of regulation, approve of our nation’s regulatory agencies and want better enforcement.
87% of voters want better enforcement of rules and regulations, including 89% of Democrats, 87% of Independents and 85% of Republicans. Even after hearing arguments against it, 77% of voters agree we need better enforcement.
A majority of voters – including a majority of Republicans – hold favorable views of all of these federal agencies:
Consumer Product Safety Commission
Department of Agriculture
Environmental Protection Agency
Food and Drug Administration
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
Industry-backed proposals to weaken and repeal beneficial safeguards make no sense because they are based on false assumptions.
Some industry executives always predict doom and gloom in the face of new regulations, but they’ve been wrong every time. History shows public protections are compatible with corporate profits. Only when Wall Street was deregulated did business suffer.
The Washington Post’s fact checker has debunked the outlandish claims commonly made about regulatory costs. Most industry-backed studies are not scientific or peer-reviewed, exaggerate the costs and omit the benefits side of the ledger.
Cost-benefit analysis should not be the sole or primary basis for rulemaking because most regulations have benefits that are difficult to quantify or cannot be quantified at all. For instance, there is no way to measure the emotional toll that a slow and painful death from silicosis takes on a family or the peace of mind parents feel knowing their children can avoid life-threatening asthma attacks.
Federal agencies already conduct retrospective reviews, and they keep finding the same thing: The vast majority of public protections still work and are still needed.
Consult these resources for more information on the benefits of regulation and the costs of delay.
The Benefits of Public Protections: Ten Rules That Save Lives and Protect the Environment
Center for Effective Government: July 2014
Reality Check: The Forgotten Lessons of Deregulation and Unsung Successes of Sensible Safeguards
Coalition for Sensible Safeguards: March 2013
Underestimating the Benefits of Public Protections
Center for Effective Government: October 2012
Sensible Safeguards: The Gift that Keeps on Giving
Coalition for Sensible Safeguards: December 2011
An Unmistakable Pattern: New Government Reports Underscore that the Benefits of Regulations Far Exceed the Costs
Economic Policy Institute: March 2011
Good Rules: Ten Stories of Successful Regulation
Demos: February 2011