The Competitive Enterprise Institute has dreary but sobering findings about government regulations. “Ten Thousand Commandments” — an annual review of such things — it shines a light on the large on the “hidden tax” of America’s regulatory state. Both regulations and federal intervention cost consumers and businesses $1.88 trillion in lost economic productivity and higher prices last year, says author Clyde Wayne Crews, vice president of policy at the nonprofit organization.
“Federal agencies do not answer to voters. Yet in a sense, regulators and the administration, rather than Congress, do the bulk of U.S. lawmaking. Years of unbudgeted growth of the federal regulatory system are worrisome when no one can claim with assurance that regulatory benefits exceed costs,” Mr. Crews says.
“If U.S. federal regulation was a country, it would be the world’s 10th largest economy, ranking behind Russia and ahead of India. This regulatory cost works out to be an average of $14,976 per household, or 29 percent of an average family budget of $51,100,” the analysis states.
The scope of federal government spending, deficits and the national debt is staggering, but so is the impact of federal regulations, which now exceeds half the amount the federal government spends annually. Unfortunately, regulations get too little attention in policy debates because, unlike taxes, they are unbudgeted. They are also difficult to quantify because their effects are often indirect. In Ten Thousand Commandments, Crews compiles available data on regulatory costs and trends. By making the size, extent and cost of Washington’s rules and mandates more comprehensible, Crews underscores the need for more review, transparency and accountability—for both new and existing federal regulations.
Highlights of the 2015 edition include:
- Federal regulation and intervention cost American consumers and businesses an estimated $1.88 trillion in 2014 in lost economic productivity and higher prices.
- If U.S. federal regulation was a country, it would be the world’s 10th largest economy, ranking behind Russia and ahead of India.
- Economy-wide regulatory costs amount to an average of $14,976 per household – around 29 percent of an average family budget of $51,100. Although not paid directly by individuals, this “cost” of regulation exceeds the amount an average family spends on health care, food and transportation.
- The “Unconstitutionality Index” is the ratio of regulations issued by unelected agency officials compared to legislation enacted by Congress in a given year. In 2014, agencies issued 16 new regulations for every law—that’s 3,554 new regulations compared to 224 new laws.
- Many Americans complain about taxes, but regulatory compliance costs exceed what the IRS is expected to collect in both individual and corporate income taxes for last year—by more than $160 billion.
- Some 60 federal departments, agencies and commissions have 3,415 regulations in development at various stages in the pipeline. The top six federal rulemaking agencies account for 48 percent of all federal regulations. These are the Departments of the Treasury, Commerce, Interior, Health and Human Services and Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency.
- The 2014 Federal Register contains 77,687 pages, the sixth highest page count in its history. Among the six all-time-high Federal Register total page counts, five occurred under President Obama.
- And oh, yes. The George W. Bush administration averaged 62 major regulations annually over eight years, while the Obama administration has averaged 81 major regulations annually over six years.
- Total Rules, Major Rules & Small Biz Impacts
- Regulatory Dark Matter: Significant Guidance Documents, By Agency
What they say about Ten Thousand Commandments: