Ten Thousand Commandments

An Annual Snapshot of the Federal Regulatory State


Full study available in pdf format

Every year, thousands of pages are added to the Federal Register, imposing new regulations and costs upon American business and consumers. And every year, CEI Vice President for Policy Clyde Wayne Crews examines the reams of new regulations.

In the fiscal year 2005 federal budget, President Bush proposed $2.4 trillion in discretionary, entitlement, and interest spending. Although those costs fully express the on-budget scope of the federal government, there is considerably more to the government’s reach than the sum of the taxes sent to Washington. Federal environmental, safety and health, and economic regulations cost hundreds of billions of dollars every year—on top of official federal outlays.

The exact cost of federal regulations can never be fully known. Firms generally pass along to consumers some of the costs of the taxes they are required to pay. Similarly, some regulatory costs, although generally imposed on businesses, get passed on to consumers. But governmental and private data exist on scores of regulations and the agencies that issue them, as well as on regulatory costs and benefits, some of which can be compiled in a way that makes the regulatory state more comprehensible to the public. That is the purpose of the annual Ten Thousand Commandments report, some highlights of which appear below.

• The 2003 Federal Register contained 71,269 pages, a 6 percent decrease from 2002’s all time record 75,606 pages.

• In 2003, 4,148 final rules were issued by agencies.

• Whereas regulatory agencies issued 4,148 final rules, Congress passed and the president signed into law a comparatively low 198 bills in 2003.

• In the 2003 Unified Agenda, agencies reported on 4,266 regulations that were at various stages of implementation throughout the 50-plus federal departments, agencies, and commissions, an increase of 2 percent from the previous year.

• Of the 4,266 regulations now in the regulatory pipeline, 127 are “economically significant” rules that will have at least $100 million in economic impact. Those rules will impose at least $12.7 billion yearly in future off-budget costs.

• Economically significant rules in the works decreased 6 percent between 2002 and 2003, from 135 to 127.