Peter the Great’s Tax Policy Innovations

From p. 401 of Peter K. Massie’s 1980 biography, Peter the Great: His Life and World:

The Tsar’s demands for money were insatiable. In one attempt to uncover new sources of income, Peter in 1708 created a service of revenue officers, men whose duty it was to devise new ways of taxing the people. Called by the foreign name “fiscals,” they were commanded “to sit and make income for the Sovereign Lord.” The leader and most successful was Alexis Kurbatov, the former serf of Boris Sheremetev who had already attracted Peter’s attention with his proposal for requiring that government-stamped paper be used for all legal documents. Under Kurbatov and his ingenious, fervently hated colleagues, new taxes were levied on a wide range of human activities. There was a tax on births, on marriages, on funerals, and on the registration of wills. There was a tax on wheat and tallow. Horses were taxed, and horse hides and horse collars. There was a hat tax and a tax on the wearing of leather boots. The beard tax was systematized and enforced, and a tax on mustaches was added. Ten percent was collected from all cab fares. Houses in Moscow were taxed, and beehives throughout Russia. There was a bed tax, a bath tax, and inn tax, a tax on kitchen chimneys and on the firewood that burned in them. Nuts, melons, cucumbers were taxed. There was even a tax on drinking water.

Money also came from an increasing number of state monopolies. This arrangement, whereby the state took control of the production and sale of a commodity, setting any price it wished, was applied to alcohol, resin, tar, fish, oil, chalk, potash, rhubarb, dice, chessmen, playing cards, and the skins of Siberian foxes, ermines, and sables. The flax monopoly granted to English merchants was taken back by the Russian government. The tobacco monopoly given by Peter to Lord Carmathen in England in 1698 was abolished. The solid-oak coffins in which wealthy Moscovites elegantly spent eternity were taken over by the state and then sold at four times the original price. Of all the monopolies, however, the one most profitable to the government and most oppressive to the people was the monopoly on salt. Established by decree in 1705, it fixed the price at twice the cost to the government. Peasants who could not afford the higher price often sickened and died.

And from p. 402:

No matter how much the people struggled, Peter’s taxes and monopolies still did not bring in enough. The first Treasury balance sheet, published in 1710, showed a revenue of 3,026,128 rubles and expenses of 3,834,418 rubles, leaving a deficit of over 808,000 rubles. This money went overwhelmingly for war.

This Week in Ridiculous Regulations

In a four-day week, the economy got mixed news on employment and inflation, a dubious new antitrust bill was announced, and William Shatner flew into space. Meanwhile, agencies issued new rules ranging from timber telecom products to tomato committees.

On to the data:

  • Agencies issued 30 final regulations last week, after 77 the previous week.
  • That is the equivalent of a new regulation every five hours and 36 minutes.
  • With 2,576 final regulations so far in 2021, agencies are on pace to issue 3,269 final regulations this year. 2020’s total was 3,218 final regulations.
  • Agencies issued 27 proposed regulations in the Federal Register last week, after 37 the previous week.
  • With 1,646 proposed regulations so far in 2021, agencies are on pace to issue 2,088 proposed regulations this year. 2020’s total was 2,222 proposed regulations.
  • Agencies published 379 notices last week, after 500 notices the previous week.
  • With 17,155 notices so far in 2021, agencies are on pace to issue 22,251 notices this year. 2020’s total was 22,480.
  • Last week, 859 new pages were added to the Federal Register, after 2,057 pages the previous week.
  • The average Federal Register issue this year contains 292 pages.
  • With 57,524 pages so far, the 2021 Federal Register is on pace for 73,000 pages in 2021. The 2020 total was 87,352 pages. The all-time record adjusted page count (subtracting skips, jumps, and blank pages) is 96,994, set in 2016.
  • Rules are called “economically significant” if they have costs of $100 million or more in a given year. There are 13 such rules so far in 2021, none from the last week. Agencies published five economically significant rules in 2020, and four in 2019.
  • The running cost tally for 2021’s economically significant rules ranges from $2.77 billion to $6.61 billion. The 2020 figure ranges from net savings of between $2.04 billion and $5.69 billion, mostly from estimated savings on federal spending. The exact numbers depend on discount rates and other assumptions.
  • Agencies have published 335 final rules meeting the broader definition of “significant” in 2021, with six in the last week. This is on pace for 431 significant rules in 2021. 2020’s total was 79 significant final rules.
  • In 2021, 703 new rules affect small businesses; 85 are classified as significant. 2020’s totals were 668 rules affecting small businesses, 26 of them significant.

Highlights from last week’s new regulations:

For more data, see Ten Thousand Commandments and follow @10KC and @RegoftheDay on Twitter.

Jobless Claims Just Fell, but Government Barriers Remain a Problem

This press statement was originally posted at cei.org.

The number of new jobless claims fell below 300,000 for the week ended Oct. 9 — the first time since COVID-19 hit. Continuing claims fell to 2.59 million people, also the lowest level since the pandemic, but still slightly higher than average. CEI Senior Fellow Ryan Young credits increased COVID safety and a decline in government benefits and urges governments to do more to reduce barriers and resist the urge to splurge:

“One reason for the decline is expiring benefit program extensions, although the number of job openings remains at record levels. While economic fundamentals are in decent shape aside from inflation, the economic recovery is not in the clear just yet.

“The single biggest factor in the recovery has nothing to do with politics or policy—it’s COVID safety. People open up when they feel it’s safe to do so, and they close back up when they don’t. This explains a lot of the yo-yo effect in economic indicators since the pandemic began. Vaccination rates are not yet where they need to be to prevent or slow the spread of new variants, and the FDA has yet to approve promising new treatments, such as vaccines for children under 15 and a pill that can be taken at home.

“There is still plenty that policymakers should do, though. They should scrap the big infrastructure and spending bills. Not only would these add to inflation and debt, they would take enormous amounts of resources away from consumers and capital-needy businesses, and spend them on political projects instead.

“Permits, licenses, and other barriers make it difficult for businesses to adapt to COVID-era conditions and hire new employees. Trade barriers are contributing to supply chain problems that could put a damper on holiday spending. Lightening these loads would improve people’s lives as well as economic indicators.”

Sen. Klobuchar’s Half-Baked Antitrust Bill

famous scene in the 1990s comedy movie Half Baked has a young Jon Stewart musing about how different everyday activities can be while one is high on cannabis. “I love Al Pacino, man. You ever see Scent of a Woman?” “Yup,” his dealer says. “You ever seen Scent of a Woman—ON WEED? That’s the way to see it, man!” Stewart continues: “You ever see the back of a $20 bill, man?” “No, I don’t know you,” says the now-wary dealer. “You ever see the back of a $20 bill—ON WEED?! There’s some weird shit in there, man!”

This scene may well have inspired Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s (D-MN) new antitrust bill, the American Innovation and Choice Online Act. The Senate version, to be introduced next week, joins an already-introduced House version (H.R. 3816), which would ban online retailers from giving preferential treatment to their private brand products.

Sure, you buy store brand products all the time at the grocery store and from Costco, but have you ever bought store brand products—ONLINE?! The distinction between in-person commerce and online commerce is silly. It’s 2021. Nearly every business, big or small, has at least some online presence, and they have for a while.

Sellers sell and buyers buy. Whether in person, by phone, by mail, or online, all are just different means to the same end. People tend to use whichever method has the lowest transaction costs to get together and make transactions. That’s it. The rest is details, like the man in the bushes on the back of Jon Stewart’s $20 bill, who may or may not have a gun.

Klobuchar and her eight Senate cosponsors have an average age of 66, so most of them may not get even my own dated cultural reference to Half Baked. In fact, the only two sponsors under age 60 are Josh Hawley (R-MO), 41, and Cory Booker (D-NJ), 52. No wonder nearly every congressional hearing on tech issues has at least one “series of tubes” or “Senator, we run ads” moment. Whatever one’s feelings about the tech industry, one should think carefully before giving politicians the power to regulate what they do not understand.

For more tech-savvy members, maybe they are grasping at straws for reasons to regulate companies they dislike, and this was the best they could find.

Whatever the case, the online-offline distinction does not matter for consumers, and it gets blurrier every year. Amazon is opening more brick-and-mortar stores, while Walmart and Target are expanding their online offerings. Sen. Klobuchar’s bill would freeze in time a false dichotomy, and cause consumer harm right in the middle of a difficult economic recovery.

How would the bill work in practice? It would not ban online companies from selling their private brand products, but it would ban them from giving their own products special treatment. Google, for example, would probably not be able to show Google Maps in its search engine, or at least not as a leading search result, which could lead to a lot of frustrated drivers. Amazon’s Prime program might go away entirely. At the very least, Amazon’s house brands would become harder to find and might not qualify for free shipping. There would be plenty of consumer aggravation, and no consumer benefits.

Meanwhile, house brands at physical stores would remain untouched. For decades, store brands such as Costco’s Kirkland have benefited from discounted prices, preferential marketing, and prominent shelf space. Those markets have remained highly competitive, but now that this same business practice is happening online, it is somehow different?

Nobody has yet offered a convincing explanation of why that is the case, let alone why commerce at a physical store is fundamentally different from commerce on a website or app, and therefore should be regulated differently.

The American Innovation and Choice Online Act is clearly not about consumer protection. For progressives, it allows them to express an ideological distaste for big businesses and pursue antitrust-unrelated issues like income inequality. For conservatives, it gives them a way to express their culture war grievances against tech companies—which is about as antitrust-unrelated as it gets.

The bill is also a golden opportunity for rent-seekers. For traditional retailers, it is a way for government to hobble their competitors. That might not be what antitrust advocates intend, but that is how antitrust works in in the real world. The American Innovation and Choice Online Act is only the latest instance of a long tradition of regulatory capture in antitrust policy.

For antitrust policy ideas that are more than half-baked, see CEI’s dedicated antitrust website and Wayne Crews’ and my paper “The Case against Antitrust Law.”

IRS Licensing of Tax Preparers Is Ripe for Abuse

Roughly a quarter of all jobs in America now require some sort of occupational license. Sixty years ago, it was about one job in 20. Should tax preparers join the list? The Taxpayer Protection and Preparer Proficiency Act of 2021 (H.R. 4184), introduced by Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), is the latest legislative attempt to do so. CEI signed onto a coalition letter this week, led by the Institute for Justice, opposing the idea.

The bill is being marketed as a consumer protection measure that would ensure that taxpayers are guaranteed quality service by a knowledgeable tax preparer. In practice, it would harm both consumers and small tax preparers. Like many occupational licensing requirements, licensing of tax preparers is economic protectionism. It would favor big accounting firms over small preparers, while raising consumer prices. The IRS’ ability to approve and deny licenses would give it an additional tool to threaten tax preparers and abuse taxpayers. And it would potentially open black markets for unaccountable “ghost preparers” who work outside the system.

First, the rent-seeking argument. H&R Block and other big firms can afford the time and expense it would take to get their employees licensed. But thousands of individual tax preparers who work part-time to help make ends meet, cannot. They would go out of business, and their customers would have no choice but to turn to the big firms. Actions speak louder than words.

Second, the power to grant licenses is also the power to take them away. If the IRS believes that a tax preparer advocates a little too hard for her clients and saves them too much money, it can put that preparer out of business. Under the bill, the IRS only needs to show in a hearing—which it convenes, for which it sets the procedures, and where the participating personnel are on its payroll—that a preparer is “incompetent” or “disreputable.” These terms are defined so vaguely under 31 U.S. Code § 330 that the IRS can use them almost any way it wishes. Penalties include fines to the preparer and her client, censure, and loss of license.

Third, licensing requirements would open up black markets for “ghost preparers.” Licensing is not free, and businesses pass their increased costs on to consumers. That means people can get cheaper tax preparation services by going to unlicensed “ghost preparers” who do not sign their name onto clients’ returns. While this might save some money, it also lets ghost preparers escape liability for mistakes. That is the opposite of consumer protection.

At the very least, Rep. Panetta should withdraw his bill. But the best long-term reform would be to treat the root of the problem: a 70,000-page tax code that is too complicated for most people to navigate without professional help. The Tax Foundation estimated in 2016 that federal tax compliance alone costs 8.9 billion hours of paperwork and $409 billion. This does not include state and local tax compliance. Those figures have likely gone up in the last five years. There are better uses for those resources, especially during a tough economic recovery.

A simpler tax code would address most of the IRS’ complaints about tax avoidance and save taxpayers time, money, and hassle—and do so in a revenue-neutral way. Big accounting firms, their lobbyists, and their political allies’ losses would be more than offset by the gains to nearly everyone else.

The coalition letter is here. Back in 2010, Caleb O. Brown and I wrote in Investor’s Business Daily about a similar proposal that ultimately failed.

September Inflation Remains High and Fixable

Inflation remains high, with September’s numbers coming in at a 5.4 percent annualized rate, the highest number in a decade. The Federal Reserve’s target is 2 percent. While this is not a return to Carter-era stagflation, it is cause for concern. The economic recovery is difficult enough as it is, and high inflation only makes it harder. Inflation not only means higher prices for consumers, it means higher input prices for businesses, and is contributing to supply chain difficulties. That means consumers are facing price increases due to supply-and-demand factors, in addition to inflation.

Inflation is what happens when the amount of money circulating in the economy grows faster than the amount of goods and services. Keeping inflation in check means keeping those numbers in sync. Today’s record deficit spending is pushing them apart, by increasing monetary flows without necessarily increasing the amount of wealth being created. The upcoming trillion-dollar infrastructure bill, $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill, and $6 trillion annual budget will only make matters worse.

The Fed can help by raising interest rates, which it has indicated it might do early next year. Although politically independent, the Fed will likely face political pressure to keep rates low. Low rates can have a temporary, short-term stimulus effect, though at the price of a bust later. And there are the mid-term elections next year, likely before the bill would come due. Higher rates also make the government’s debt payments more expensive, making the big spending bills more difficult to pass.

If Washington wants to get inflation back to target levels, it needs to spend less while removing obstacles to wealth creation. In addition to fiscal restraint and respecting the Fed’s independence, that means easing back on permits, licenses, trade barriers, and financial regulations that are burdening supply chains and making it difficult for businesses to hire workers and create more goods and services.

The 2021 Economics Nobels: The Importance of Empiricism, and its Limits

The economics Nobel is given to individuals, but it often really intends to recognize schools of thought or methodological approaches. That is the case with this year’s prize, given to three economists who emphasize natural experiments in their research. David Card of the University of California-Berkeley won half of the award, while MIT’s Joshua Angrist and Stanford’s Guido Imbens split the other half. In the eternal debate between theory and experiment, the Nobel prize committee decided to award a point to the experimenters’ side. Somewhere, Francis Bacon and René Descartes are smiling.

This does not settle the matter, however. Good analysts use both theory and experiment, not just one or the other. More subtly, good analysts are also aware of the limits of both, as well as their virtues, and seek to find a healthy balance. Theories are useless without data to test them against. And data are useless without theories through which to interpret them. At the same time, both are subject to all kinds of human foibles, from sloppy thinking to cognitive biases to spreadsheet typos.

Card has had a long and varied career, but he is best known for his controversial study that found that a minimum wage increase in New Jersey actually increased employment in local restaurants—the opposite of what theory predicts. It was later revised as claiming the increase had no effect on employment. That study was coauthored with Alan Krueger, who might have shared Card’s half of the award had he not passed away in 2019 (The Washington Post’s Catherine Rampell, who was Krueger’s research assistant as an undergraduate, wrote a moving tribute to Krueger after his death). More about their minimum wage study below.

Angrist and Imbens have found their own natural experiments. Angrist, in collaboration with Krueger, found a new argument that education does, in fact, affect a person’s income. People born in the first quarter of a year are no different from people with birthdays elsewhere on the calendar. But because they are slightly older than their classmates, they are eligible to drop out of school earlier in the school year—at least in places with compulsory education laws. That naturally isolates an important variable, and even provides a control to check the results. And they found that people with first-quarter birthdays do, in fact, have slightly lower lifetime income than people with fourth-quarter birthdays, who must wait longer to drop out of school if they choose. In this case, the difference of about 1/10th of a year of formal schooling is associated with an income difference of about 1 percent. Over the course of a lifetime, that can add up to thousands of dollars for many people.

Imbens’s best-known research is about how effective it is for doctors to encourage people to take flu shots. This is of obvious interest in the COVID-19 age. Imbens has also done extensive work on the theory of natural experiments, helping to bridge the gap between theory and experiment.

Many economists confine themselves to writing out thought experiments on blackboards. Card, Angrist, and Imbens ask: How well does this blackboard economics hold up in real life? Does the law of demand hold up as well as it does in textbooks? This isn’t a new idea. But economists, especially in the post-Samuelson era of abstract mathematics, need the occasional reminder.

Card and Krueger’s minimum wage study is one of the most famous attempts of the last 30 years to leave the blackboard behind. That is largely because it found that, contrary to two centuries of theory, a minimum wage increase in New Jersey did not reduce employment in restaurants, compared to next-door Pennsylvania, which did not increase the minimum wage. It remains the single most cited study by proponents of increasing minimum wages.

While its methodology is groundbreaking, this instance of it has serious problems. First, it relies on self-reported survey data. Restaurant owners do not want to appear stingy to other people, even on anonymous survey questions, so their answers are likely colored by social desirability bias. When the data going in are not reliable, the results are also often unreliable.

Second, although Pennsylvania and New Jersey are neighbors, they still have enough differences—and a border that thousands of workers cross every day—where the minimum wage difference is not exactly an isolated variable. The study does not account for changes in other industries such as retail, or for relevant changes in local tax rates, regulations, political leadership, or other factors.

Third, minimum wages affect more than just wages. Every worker also earns non-wage income. At a restaurant, this can mean complimentary meals or parking, employee discounts, tuition assistance, flexible hours, investments in better working conditions, or many other things. Many of these defy measurement, which is why many economists, including Card and Krueger, defy incorporating them into their research.

That matters, because owners will often go to great lengths to avoid layoffs and firings. If their wage costs go up, they will often offset them by cutting non-wage pay. In some cases, it means workers will get no pay increase, despite getting a larger formal paycheck. Firings are a last resort, which is on reason why so many studies find that minimum wages have smaller-than-expected employment effects. Card and Krueger are hardly the only analysts to forget about non-wage tradeoffs.

To be blunt about the Card and Krueger minimum wage paper, neither its data nor its conclusion hold water. But its methodological innovations, such as its differences-in-differences method, still make it worth studying. Their creativity in looking for natural experiments, if applied carefully, can enrich our understanding of any number of policy issues. The trick is to be careful and humble, rather than go for a headline-grabbing finding that makes a paper easier to publish and politically popular to cite.

None of this means that natural experiments do not deserve a Nobel prize, or that Card is not a worthy representative of that approach. Card’s creativity, and Angrist and Imbens’s, in finding natural experiments is impressive, and should influence other economists’ approaches.

The same is true of other empirically oriented prizes, such as former CEI Julian Simon Award winner Vernon Smith, one of the founders of experimental economics, or Elinor Ostrom, who did extensive field research on different ways people have found to solve the tragedy of the commons. Ronald Coase upended years of naysaying about private provision of public goods by going out into the world and asking a few questions. He found that many lighthouses—a classic public good—were, in fact, privately owned and managed. Future prizes will be given to other empirical innovators. This is good, and important.

It is also important to learn the limits of these approaches. People don’t always give honest answers in surveys. Not all results can be replicated independently, which is an important check built into the scientific method. If a researcher isn’t asking the right questions, what statisticians call the “dreaded third thing” might drive their results, rather than the variable in which they are interested—and they would never even know it.

With that in mind, congratulations to this year’s deserving winners. May they continue to find new ways to explore the real world, to be mindful of their human limitations, and to use sound price theory to interpret what they find.

For more on this year’s winners, see Alex Tabarrok over at Marginal Revolution, and David Henderson in today’s Wall Street Journal. For more on the non-wage effects of minimum wages, see my paper “Minimum Wages Have Tradeoffs.”

This Week in Ridiculous Regulations

Katherine Tai, the new U.S. Trade Representative, gave a major speech affirming President Biden’s commitment to former President Trump’s trade protectionism. Facebook’s website went down for more than five hours, prompting policy wonks from both parties to engage in a mass display of confirmation bias. Meanwhile, agencies issued new rules ranging from the integrity of horse racing to heraldic items.

On to the data:

  • Agencies issued 77 final regulations last week, after 93 the previous week.
  • That’s the equivalent of a new regulation every two hours and 11 minutes.
  • With 2,546 final regulations so far in 2021, agencies are on pace to issue 3,298 final regulations this year. 2020’s total was 3,218 final regulations.
  • Agencies issued 37 proposed regulations in the Federal Register last week, after 39 the previous week.
  • With 1,619 proposed regulations so far in 2021, agencies are on pace to issue 2,097 proposed regulations this year. 2020’s total was 2,222 proposed regulations.
  • Agencies published 500 notices last week, after 502 notices the previous week.
  • With 17,155 notices so far in 2021, agencies are on pace to issue 22,148 notices this year. 2020’s total was 22,480.
  • Last week, 2,057 new pages were added to the Federal Register, after 1,401 pages the previous week.
  • The average Federal Register issue this year contains 294 pages.
  • With 56,664 pages so far, the 2021 Federal Register is on pace for 73,399 pages in 2021. The 2020 total was 87,352 pages. The all-time record adjusted page count (subtracting skips, jumps, and blank pages) is 96,994, set in 2016.
  • Rules are called “economically significant” if they have costs of $100 million or more in a given year. There are 13 such rules so far in 2021, three from the last week. Agencies published five economically significant rules in 2020, and four in 2019.
  • The running cost tally for 2021’s economically significant rules ranges from $2.77 billion to $6.61 billion. The 2020 figure ranges from net savings of between $2.04 billion and $5.69 billion, mostly from estimated savings on federal spending. The exact numbers depend on discount rates and other assumptions.
  • Agencies have published 333 final rules meeting the broader definition of “significant” in 2021, with six in the last week. That is on pace for 431 significant rules in 2021. 2020’s total was 79 significant final rules.
  • In 2021, 695 new rules affect small businesses; 85 are classified as significant. 2020’s totals were 668 rules affecting small businesses, 26 of them significant.

Highlights from last week’s new regulations:

For more data, see Ten Thousand Commandments and follow @10KC and @RegoftheDay on Twitter.

Jobs Added to U.S. Economy in September Show Signs of Hope and Hesitancy: CEI Analysis

This press statement was originally published on cei.org.

The U.S. economy added 194,000 jobs added in September, and unemployment dipped. CEI experts Ryan Young and Sean Higgins say this is encouraging because it shows that people are eager to reopen the economy further.

Statement from Senior Fellow Ryan Young:

“By this point, it’s pretty darn clear that the biggest factor in the economic recovery is COVID safety. People want to open back up, and when they feel it’s safe, they are. Unemployment is now back below 5 percent, even without any fresh stimulus spending from Congress. The spending bills Congress is currently debating are political wish lists that have little to do with the COVID recovery. Whether one supports them or not, they should be treated as such.

“The delta variant continues to provide a note of caution going forward, as do continuing vaccine hesitancy and the possibility of new COVID variants. But there is also good news. The FDA will likely approve the vaccine for children. People are getting booster shots when appropriate. And Merck has developed a COVID pill that could provide additional protection and free up hospital beds. The sooner the FDA cuts the red tape that is getting between sick people and life-saving treatments, the faster both the economy and public health will benefit. This is particularly the case for getting older Americans back in to the workforce. They are the people who often fill the jobs most in need of filling, such as school bus drivers.”

Statement from Research Fellow Sean Higgins:

“The Labor Department reported that the number of unemployed people fell by 710,000 in September but that only 194,000 new non-farm jobs were created. So while the unemployment rate fell to 4.8%, down four-tenths of a percent, that decline has more to do with people dropping out of the workforce than getting jobs.  

“The recovery continues to be slow and some people are giving up in frustration. The Labor Department reported that 1.6 million persons said they were prevented from looking for work in September due to the pandemic, a figure that remained essentially same as the prior month. The best way to let the economy recover remains to simply let business open and get back to hiring.”

This Week in Ridiculous Regulations

Congress averted a government shutdown and continued to negotiate over nearly $5 trillion in combined spending. Merck announced an antiviral pill for COVID-19 that could reduce the risk of hospitalization or death in half, which could potentially free up hospital beds if the FDA allows it to market. Meanwhile, agencies issued new rules ranging from perishable mail to heaters.

On to the data:

  • Agencies issued 93 final regulations last week, after 59 the previous week.
  • That’s the equivalent of a new regulation every two hours and 51 minutes.
  • With 2,469 final regulations so far in 2021, agencies are on pace to issue 3,283 final regulations this year. 2020’s total was 3,218 final regulations.
  • Agencies issued 39 proposed regulations in the Federal Register last week, after 39 the previous week.
  • With 1,582 proposed regulations so far in 2021, agencies are on pace to issue 2,102 proposed regulations this year. 2020’s total was 2,021 proposed regulations.
  • Agencies published 502 notices last week, after 492 notices the previous week.
  • With 16,655 notices so far in 2021, agencies are on pace to issue 22,148 notices this year. 2020’s total was 22,480.
  • Last week, 1,401 new pages were added to the Federal Register, after 1,113 pages the previous week.
  • The average Federal Register issue this year contains 290 pages.
  • With 54,585 pages so far, the 2021 Federal Register is on pace for 72,586 pages in 2021. The 2020 total was 87,352 pages. The all-time record adjusted page count (subtracting skips, jumps, and blank pages) is 96,994, set in 2016.
  • Rules are called “economically significant” if they have costs of $100 million or more in a given year. There are 10 such rules so far in 2021, none from the last week. Agencies published five economically significant rules in 2020, and four in 2019.
  • The running cost tally for 2021’s economically significant rules ranges from $1.42 billion to $4.81 billion. The 2020 figure ranges from net savings of between $2.04 billion and $5.69 billion, mostly from estimated savings on federal spending. The exact numbers depend on discount rates and other assumptions.
  • Agencies have published 318 final rules meeting the broader definition of “significant” in 2021, with six in the last week. This is on pace for 516 significant rules in 2021. 2020’s total was 79 significant final rules.
  • In 2021, 679 new rules affect small businesses; 83 are classified as significant. 2020’s totals were 668 rules affecting small businesses, 26 of them significant.

Highlights from last week’s new regulations:

For more data, see Ten Thousand Commandments and follow @10KC and @RegoftheDay on Twitter.