Regulatory State Gone Wild

Ten Thousand Commandments

Americans spend $1.8 trillion each year — nearly $15,000 per family — complying with regulations passed down by the federal government. That’s the estimate given by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) in the latest edition of Ten Thousand Commandments: An Annual Snapshot of the Federal Regulatory State.

“The 2012 Federal Register ranks fourth all-time with 78,961 pages, but three of the top four years, including the top two, occurred during the Obama administration,” noted the statement accompanying the report. “The 2010s are on pace to average 80,000 pages per year—up from 170,000 in the 1960s and 450,000 in the ‘70s.”

“There are more federal regulations than ever—the Code of Federal Regulations, which compiles all federal regulations, grew by more than 4,000 pages last year and now stands at 174,545 pages, spread over 238 volumes. Its index alone runs to more than 1,100 pages,” CEI added. “Government has added more than 80,000 regulations in the last 20 years—3,708 in the last year alone. That’s one new rule Americans must live under every 2½ hours. Today, 4,062 sit in the pipeline. Those will add at least $22 billion in compliance costs and probably much more.”

The cost to Americans as result of the regulations is perhaps the troubling aspect of the report. But another startling point is the way in which these rules and regulations are being imposed on Americans. Because the Obama Administration cannot pass many of these regulations through Congress, it is bypassing the legislative branch altogether, meaning that there is little to no oversight by Congress.

The report also notes that there has been a jump in “economically significant rules” — those that bring $100 million or more in compliance costs — on President Obama’s watch.

“Of the 4,062 rules in the pipeline, 224 are in this category,” CEI explained. “That level is 24 percent higher than President Bush’s most active year and far higher than any other year since 2000—except for 2010, which was tied.”

“The ‘Big Five’ rulemakers—the Departments of Treasury, Commerce, the Interior, Agriculture and Transportation—account for 43 percent of that,” CEI added. “EPA ranks sixth in rule making, but EPA regs, which are especially subject to being used to enact policies that would likely not pass muster with voters, are up 44 percent in the first Obama term and cost American taxpayers $353 billion per year—the most of any agency.”

Wayne Crews, vice president for policy at CEI and author of Ten Thousand Commandments, notes that there are ways to reform the process, including transparency and cost analysis in the process. However, he notes that another path that seems more desired — by letting Congress do its job.

“Requiring expedited votes on economically significant or controversial agency rules before they become binding on the people,” he said, “would reestablish congressional accountability and help affirm the principle of ‘no regulation without representation.”

You can read the full report below.

Ten Thousand Commandments — 2013

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