Regulations Are a Great Investment

New OMB Report Shows Benefits of Regulation Dramatically Outweigh Costs

Oct. 30, 2015

Contact: David Rosen, drosen@citizen.org, (202) 588-7742
Angela Bradbery, abradbery@citizen.org, (202) 588-7741
Sabrina Williams, swilliams@foreffectivegov.org, (202) 683-4883

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In its draft annual report (PDF) to Congress reviewing federal regulations issued between FY 2004 and FY 2014, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) found that the monetary benefits of rules dramatically outweigh their costs.

The report estimates the total benefits and costs for major rules over the past decade. Over the past 10 years, regulatory protections have generated as much as $812 billion in annual benefits compared to as little as $57 billion in costs. That’s equivalent to $755 billion in annual net benefits, with benefits outweighing costs by more than 14 times.

In FY 2014 alone, the report finds as much as $18.9 billion in annual benefits for major rules compared to as little as $2.5 billion in annual costs. That’s equivalent to more than $16 billion in annual net benefits or seven times the costs.

“This report represents the most comprehensive estimates the country has on the costs and benefits of federal regulations. Specific information about the costs of regulation come from the regulated industries themselves,” said Katherine McFate, president and CEO of the Center for Effective Government and co-chair of the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards (CSS). “If the politicians who complain about the federal government’s role in setting standards of corporate behavior were driven by logic, evidence or reason, this debate would be over. Then maybe we could move on to dealing with the issues the American people care about: a secure retirement, better jobs and a cleaner environment.”

The positive balance sheet notwithstanding, many benefits of higher standards and regulatory safeguards are difficult or impossible to quantify. For example, 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.

“Even in a count that’s systematically skewed against public protections, the benefits exceeded costs by 14 to one,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen and co-chair of CSS. “From making our air cleaner to making cars safer and cheaper to operate, these rules are a tremendous win for the public.”

Read the draft report (PDF).

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The Coalition for Sensible Safeguards is a national alliance of more than 150 consumer, labor, scientific, research, faith, community, environmental, small business, good government, public health and public interest groups — representing millions of Americans. We are joined in the belief that our country’s system of regulatory safeguards should secure our quality of life, pave the way for a sound economy and benefit us all. To learn more, go to SensibleSafeguards.org.