About Those Terrifying Claims on Regulations...

They kill jobs. They cause death. They even make the economy collapse.

What are "they"? The rhetoric of Big Business and its allies over the past three decades should make that obvious -- I'm talking about regulations, of course.

Thanks to oh-so-helpful, industry-skewed stats -- the information that corporate lobbyists and pundits feed the media and our members of Congress -- I now know that regulations have been responsible for such enormously vast quantities of job loss that the numbers actually exceed the number of people who are currently unemployed in the country. Oh and they have also been a leading cause of death.

Not really, of course.

A new Public Citizen report by Taylor Lincoln, "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," seems to contradict my strong belief in everything Big Business spokespersons have said over the past 30 years about the "disastrous" impacts they predicted (and still predict) if regulations are implemented.

The piece looks both at claims regarding individual regulations, for example, ones that suggest that regulations on fuel economy standards, toxic emissions, and workplace safety cost or threatened more than 55 million jobs (nearly five times the total number of Americans currently unemployed, which is about 11.3 million), and at the meta-level, looking at claims about the effects of regulations writ large.

At the more global level, one example in the report is a 2011 study by the Washington, D.C., Phoenix Center which suggested that federal regulations are cumulatively responsible for exacting a toll of about 23.2 million jobs a year. By that rubric, regulations have eliminated more jobs in the past seven years than the total number of jobs currently in existence in the United States.

Hmm, so maybe industry exaggerated a little?

They do like their rhetoric. As Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus noted last year, "it is a seemingly immutable law of modern Republican rhetoric that the word 'regulation' can never appear unadorned by the essential adjective: 'job-killing.'" And she seems to be right: Almost every new major health, safety or environmental law passed by Congress over the past several decades was accompanied by doomsday predictions concerning the job losses that would occur once the new regulations that implement the law are issued by federal agencies.

And it is a little suspicious that the doomsday predictions never seem to bear out. (Maybe Big Business forgets to take into account innovation by industry? Innovation happens when new rules come into place -- see another Public Citizen report on the matter here.)

Regardless, industry proudly stays true to their refrain, returning over and over like a boomerang to their alarming numbers and claims when new legislation and rules to protect the public are proposed. How impressively consistent!

And of course, new laws being implemented right now are no exception. The report shows that cumulatively, regulation's opponents forecast that at least 12.9 million jobs will be lost over roughly the next decade due to the implementation of new environmental regulations (9.7 million), the Dodd-Frank financial reform law that was passed in the wake of the financial crisis (2.9 million), and the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act (262,000).

Should I continue to trust industry now after the record they've assembled in their past predictions on regulations? Or is it finally time for a reality check, and some skepticism?