Study: Anti-regulation claims ‘outlandish’

Claims that regulations are causing unemployment, dragging down the economy and even leading to premature deaths are “outlandish” and often inaccurate, according to a new report from the consumer interest group Public Citizen.

The organization’s study, released on Thursday, showed that many of the most extreme past predictions about the costs of regulation had little in common with what actually happened.

Those overblown concerns from conservatives and business groups, the report said, have tried to stop critical protections for the environment and public health.


“If we had given into industry’s hysteria in the past, the air would be dirtier, work would be more dangerous and the economy would not be a bit better off,” Taylor Lincoln, the report's author and research director with Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division, said in a statement.

For instance, the report notes that a 2011 study from the Phoenix Center, a nonprofit think tank, found that cutting spending on regulations by 16 percent would create more than 18 million new jobs over the next five years. 

That prediction is “patently absurd,” the report said, “if taken to its logical extreme.” The Phoenix Center’s formula would find that regulations would cost the economy more than 162 million jobs over seven years, which is more than the 144 million jobs in existence today.

The report also tried to debunk a 1992 study from the conservative Heritage Foundation that asserted that regulations lead to premature deaths, since the cost of complying with the rules lowers incomes.

Updating that paper to account for inflation and current regulations, the report found, would mean that regulations are the third greatest cause of death among Americans, behind heart disease and cancer.

“In retrospect, industry’s claims just seem comical,” said a statement from Lisa Gilbert, director of the groups’ Congress Watch division. “But the message of this report is still a serious one because the claims being made today are just as outlandish as the laughable ones in our report.”

The report said that many of the outdated claims “are so similar in nature” to current predictions about the costs of regulations issued under the Dodd-Frank Act, the Affordable Care Act and other laws.

“One lesson to be drawn from past predictions of job losses from regulation is that they almost certainly will not occur on anything approaching the scale suggested, if at all,” the report said.