Last year, some 54 federal departments and agencies and more than 130,000 federal employees spent over
$18.7 billion writing and enforcing federal regulations. During the Clinton/Gore administration, the number of full-time positions in regulatory agencies reached an all-time high. The era of big government is not over.
According to renowned economist Thomas Hopkins, federal regulations were estimated to cost the American people $721 billion this year, which is equal to about 40 percent of all federal spending representing a hidden tax of more than $6,800 per year for each American family. This figure only represents direct compliance costs, not indirect costs such as the cost of lost productivity, the increased cost of goods and services (as we are seeing with gas prices right now), and lower wages.
In light of this, it is very troublesome to see what is occurring in the regulatory arena right now. In its last few days in office, the Clinton/ Gore administration currently is pushing through a number of new rules particularly in the environmental arena. This last-minute regulatory push to impose so called “midnight-regulations,” serves two purposes: First, it panders to special interest groups for political gain in the current election. And second, it pre-empts regulatory decisions which should properly be made by the next administration.
The Clinton-Gore administration is playing a zero sum game with the regulatory process. While special interests and bureaucrats are winning, the American people are losing. When well-thought-out and reflecting consensus, regulations can certainly provide benefits to the American people. But as regulatory experts Wendy Gramm and Susan Dudley of George Mason University’s Mercatus Center recently wrote in an article in the Atlanta Journal, “When regulations are rushed into effect without adequate thought, they are likely to do more harm than good.”
What is most disturbing is that the Clinton-Gore administration will promulgate these regulations at any cost at the financial cost of the American people, at the cost of making a mockery of rulemaking due process, even at the cost of environmental protection.
In August, an article in The Washington Post reported that the Clinton-Gore administration, “[m]indful that Republicans could occupy the White House in less than six months” was “working feverishly to issue a host of new regulations supported by environmentalists and other liberal leaning groups… . At the EPA alone, officials have listed 67 regulatory decisions looming before Clinton’s second term expires in January.”
We have now learned from the EPA that they are actually pushing 88 new regulatory decisions not 67 and this does not include the numerous interim final rules, policy statements, and guidance documents that EPA is also trying to push through.
In fact, the average number of pages of regulations in the Federal Register is sky-rocketing. Currently, the Clinton-Gore administration is placing an average of 210 pages of regulations per day in the Federal Register. The last time there was such a flood of regulations was at the end of the Carter administration when the Federal Register had an average of 200 pages of regulations per day.
In addition, the Clinton-Gore administration is attempting to bypass the safeguards of the Administrative Procedure Act which require federal agencies to provide opportunities for informed and meaningful public participation as part of the regulatory rulemaking process. It is doing so by making liberal use of interim final rules, guidance documents, and policy statements that do not require public comment and are not subject to review by the courts. While it is improper for EPA to try to impose legally binding rules in this way, that is exactly what it is doing.
For example, in April, the U.S. Court of Appeals, in Appalachian Power vs. EPA, actually had to strike down an abusive EPA guidance document. The court found that: (1) the EPA was creating broad new authority through the guidance document; (2) the EPA did intend the guidance document to have binding effect; and (3) the guidance was illegally issued outside the proper rulemaking procedures.
The Clinton-Gore Administration is in overdrive to make policy by administrative edict where it has failed to do so through the legislative process or by following proper regulatory procedure. President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore are acting as if they believe the less the public participates the better.
The EPA is trying to cram though scores of rules and other regulatory decisions without proper public discourse. This is irresponsible and wrong. It is another egregious abuse of power in the long list of abuses that constitute the real legacy of the Clinton-Gore years. It is time for new leadership in Washington that will place a priority on restoring honesty and integrity in government.
Sen. James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican, is chairman of the Senate Environment & Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air, Wetlands, Private Property & Nuclear Safety.