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Doomsday Predictions of Jobs Lost or Threatened by Regulations Far Exceed Total Number of Unemployed People, New Report Shows

Nov. 14, 2013

Doomsday Predictions of Jobs Lost or Threatened by Regulations Far Exceed Total Number of Unemployed People, New Report Shows

Regulations Are Even a Leading Cause of Death in the United States, Some Claims Suggest

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Over the past four decades, business interests have predicted that so many jobs would be lost from the regulations that are now in place that the sum exceeds the number of unemployed people today, according to a new Public Citizen report. One strain of thought put out by critics even suggests that regulations are a leading cause of death in the United States.

The report, “It’s an Outrage: Regulations Are Entirely to Blame for Unemployment and a Leading Cause of Death in the United States, According to Industry and Its Allies,” reveals a gaping chasm between industry’s forecasts and eventual results. Proposals over measures to reduce auto pollution, increase fuel economy and protect plastics workers evoked claims from regulated industries that more than 55 million jobs would be lost or jeopardized. Instead, the rules yielded enormous dividends, and the job-loss claims never materialized.

“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,” said Taylor Lincoln, research director for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division and author of the report. “What the past four decades have shown is that regulated industries are even more adept at solving problems than they are at conjuring fears.”

The report also examines various studies that attempt to assess the employment effects of all regulations, not just discrete ones. A study by the Washington, D.C., Phoenix Center claimed that a 16 percent reduction in federal regulatory spending would result in the creation of 18 million jobs in five years. By the study’s methodology, full elimination of federal regulations would more than double the number of jobs in the United States in seven years.

Public Citizen also reviewed a 1990s study published by a Heritage Foundation scholar that explored a theory, in vogue at the time, that regulations cause premature deaths because of the costs to comply with them. Updating figures in that paper to account for inflation and a more current estimate on the costs of regulations yields the conclusion that regulations trail only heart disease and cancer among killers of Americans.

More recently, groups allied with regulated industries have claimed that proposed financial protection rules and environmental rules alone will wipe out more than 12 million jobs. But industry’s historical forecasting record casts its current anti-regulatory claims in a skeptical light.

“In retrospect, industry’s claims just seem comical,” said Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s 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. If we take them seriously, we will pay a big price.”

The report is available at https://www.citizen.org/our-work/government-reform/articles/its-outrage.