The first place to start is the Federal Register, which is Uncle Sam’s official site for new rules.
Though it gives us conflicting information. The number of pages (a crude measure of regulatory zeal, as I noted a few years ago) actually decreased during Biden’s first year. But only compared to Trump’s last year.
To understand what’s really going on, let’s look at the Forbes article from which the above table was taken.
Clyde Wayne Crews of the Competitive Enterprise Institute sifts through the data and concludes that Biden is a fan of expanded red tape.
The Federal Register is the daily depository of rules and regulations produced by hundreds of federal departments and agencies. …Under Biden, the regulatory establishment has its Hall Pass back, and it shows. The Federal Register page count ended the year with 74,532 pages. …The 2020 count under Trump was far higher, at 86,356. There had been “only” 61,308 pages back in Trump’s first year of 2017, which had been the lowest count in a quarter-century… Trump’s first year represented a 35 percent drop… But Trump’s final year made him number two… How come? Well, …removing rules that ought not have been written in the first place still requires writing new rules to do it. …So, paradoxically, any concerted Trump moves on “one-in, two-out” in service of deregulating and removing that which came decades before required fattening the Register to some extent. …Despite Biden’s lower Federal Register page count, we’re nonetheless back in the mode of not just unapologetically but combatively fattening the Federal Register. …several hundred of Trumps rules had been deemed “deregulatory” for purposes of his one-in, two-out program… Biden’s revivalist counts are embedded with no such purpose… Trump definitely left a mark. Biden is working on erasing it.
Incidentally, I don’t think regulatory experts from the left would disagree with the above assessment.
For instance, Brookings has a regulatory tracker that monitors what’s been happening since Biden took office and you will not find any evidence that the current administration is interested in limiting or reducing red tape.
Let’s wrap up by looking at a specific example of Biden’s regulatory excess. It’s about domestic energy production, which is a very timely issue given what is happening in Ukraine.
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Ben Cahill of the Center for Strategic and International Studies summarized some of what Biden did to hinder America’s ability to produce energy.
President Joe Biden has followed through on a campaign pledge by introducing a moratorium on new oil and gas leasing on federal lands and waters. With nearly 25 percent of U.S. oil and gas production coming from federal lands, the policy shift may have significant implications for future investment and production. …This pause will not affect existing operations or permits for existing leases, and private lands will not be affected. …A more permanent leasing ban would have a significant impact, although visible offshore production declines may not materialize for up to 10 years, given the typical timeframe for planning, exploration, appraisal, and development. Onshore production declines could conceivably show up faster.
As you can see, the main damage is to future energy production rather than current energy production.
Needless to say, the same is true about the Biden Administration’s limitations on energy exploration and development in Alaska.
And don’t forget about pipelines (and geopolitics!), as mentioned in this column by Kevin Williamson for National Review.
The Biden administration already is reaching out to Caracas, where officials describe the initial conversation as “cordial” and “respectful.” I’ll bet it is. And Maduro’s isn’t the only tyrannical tuchus that requires kissing: President Joe Biden is said to be planning a personal trip to Riyadh to beg Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to ramp up Saudi production. …Right about now, President Biden must be wishing he had an extra pipeline to Canada. The thought has occurred to Alberta premier Jason Kenney, who observes about Keystone XL: “If President Biden had not vetoed that project, it would be done later this year — 840,000 barrels of democratic energy that could have displaced the 600,000 plus barrels of Russian conflict oil that’s filled with the blood of Ukrainians.” …We could spare ourselves some of these calculations by maximizing our own output — not only of crude oil and natural gas but also of refined-petroleum products. That would also mean building the necessary pipeline infrastructure and reforming our antiquated maritime regulations to enable the transportation of those fuels.
The bottom line is that the Biden Administration wants more regulation and red tape.
That has adverse consequences for economic dynamism and growth.
Especially when bureaucrats at the regulatory agencies ignore cost-benefit analysis (or put their thumbs on the scale to get a result that matches their ideological preferences).
And, in the case of energy, regulatory policy can have significant geopolitical implications as well.