President Donald Trump recently patted himself on the back for the "most far-reaching regulatory reform" in U.S. history, which wasn't true but that wasn't the point. The point was that Trump has made eliminating government regulations one of his top priorities.
"We have decades of excess regulation to remove," he said, calling on his Cabinet members "to find and remove every single outdated, unlawful and excessive regulation currently on the books."
Trump and his Cabinet may want to rethink that proposition.
Last month on a Friday night, when the White House figured no one was looking, it quietly released a congressionally mandated report from the Office of Management and Budget spelling out both the costs of government regulations on the private sector and the estimated monetary benefits to the public.
For example, the cost of imposing clean-air and clean-water rules on factories versus the benefit to ordinary people of not getting cancer and running up huge hospital bills.
In former President Obama's final year in office -- the period covered by the report -- 16 "major rules" were fully quantifiable, meaning their total costs and benefits were capable of being measured.
What Trump's budget office found was that these rules cost up to $4.9 billion to impose on businesses and resulted in up to $27.3 billion in benefits to the American people.
That means taxpayers got nearly six times as much in benefits as was spent regulating businesses.
And that, by any yardstick, is a hell of a good investment.
Amit Narang, a regulatory policy advocate with Public Citizen, told me the report was released by the White House with no fanfare around 7 p.m. Friday. He noted that the Trump administration missed its Dec. 31 deadline for the report by two months.