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.
Over the past several decades, it has become accepted that the cost of higher education will continue to rise every year, far outpacing inflation or any other category (save perhaps health care). Every year, more and more colleges raise tuition to ungodly levels, fully knowing that the federal government will cover the difference. There is little incentive for them to do otherwise. Quite simply, college is not anything close to resembling a free market. We have come to accept the idea that everyone should be able to go to college, including ones that are wildly overpriced, and that government - that is, taxpayers - should foot the bill.
And yet, even questioning this is akin to wanting poor kids to suffer. During the 2012 campaign, Mitt Romney, supposedly from the party that likes free markets, was a staunch defender of Pell Grants, one of the primary government programs used to subsidize college tuition. Romney even expressed a desire to expand the program. For those who don’t know, the basic principle of Pell Grants is that the government gives you money towards your tuition - with no obligation to pay it back. There are various qualifiers for this money, but it is basically a gift if you get it. So needless to say, when I heard this during the debate, one thing was clear - you’re not allowed to question the basic idea that government has an interest, even an obligation, to pay for college for those who cannot afford it.
Christopher C. Horner serves as a Senior Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. As an attorney in Washington, DC, Horner has represented CEI as well as scientists and Members of the U.S. House and Senate on matters of environmental policy in the federal courts including the Supreme Court.
Horner has testified before the United States Senate Committees on Foreign Relations and Environment and Public Works, and works on a legal and policy level with numerous think tanks and policy organizations throughout the world. This week, Horner published a newly uncovered memo between the IPCC and EPA.
Greenpeace has repeatedly targeted Mr. Horner, by stealing his garbage on a weekly basis, issuing press releases announcing with whom he dines and including him in various other hysterical publications including most recently “A Field Guide to Climate Criminals” distributed at the UN climate meeting in Montreal in December 2005.
If you haven’t purchased his new book, The liberal War on Transparency: Confessions of a Freedom of Information “Criminal,” you should do so today! Follow him on Twitter @Chris_C_Horner.
Matt Naugle: How did you become a libertarian?
Early yesterday evening, the United States Senate passed the so-called “Marketplace Fairness Act,” otherwise known as the Internet sales tax, which will turn small businesses and Internet-based retailers into tax collecting agents for 45 states and more than 9,600 local jurisdictions:
The Senate on Monday approved legislation that would for the first time allow states to collect billions of dollars in online sales tax revenue from out-of-state purchases.
The 69-27 vote is a major victory for retail groups and state governments, who for years have fought to close what they see as a loophole that allows as much as $23 billion in annual taxes from online sales to go uncollected.
Supporters said the overwhelming vote in the Senate will give the bill momentum as it heads to the House. They hope to get a bill to President Obama’s desk by the end of 2013.
Opponents, including some well-known conservative groups and the online retailer eBay, have vowed to keep up the fight in the House, where the path forward is less clear. They argue forcing small businesses to play tax collector for other states would be a huge burden, and that the bill would open retailers up to increased audits and compliance costs.
You can see how your Senators voted here. As you’ll see, Senate Republicans were split almost evenly on the tax, with opponents just barely edging out supporters. Only five Senate Democrats voted against the tax.
Earlier this week, we covered a lawsuit filed by Matt Sissel, an Iraq War veteran who is challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act — or ObamaCare, as it has come to be known. Sissel contends that because the law, which raises taxes on businesses and individuals, didn’t originate in the House as constitutionally required, it should be struck down.
Sissel’s case, however, isn’t the only challenge to ObamaCare currently working its way through the court system. A group of small business owners from states that have declined to setup insurance exchanges filed a lawsuit yesterday that seeks to prevent the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) from imposing fines against them:
The individual plaintiffs in the new lawsuit, from Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia – states that didn’t set up exchanges — say they should not be considered eligible for the subsidies and should not have to pay a fine if they don’t purchase insurance.
The “subsidies actually serve to financially injure and restrict the economic choices of certain individuals,” the new complaint says. “For these people, the Subsidy Expansion Rule, by making insurance less ‘unaffordable,’ subjects them to the individual mandate’s requirement to purchase costly, comprehensive health insurance that they otherwise would forgo.”
The employers from Missouri, Kansas and Texas are arguing that they should not be subject to penalties that they may have to pay if their workers receive tax subsidies through the exchanges
Despite all the talk about draconian spending cuts due to the sequester, President Barack Obama has, as part of his FY 2014 budget, asked Congress for $100 million to map the human brain, which is trying to sell as a job creation initiative:
President Obama today proposed $100 million in spending to map the human brain in hopes of unlocking “this enormous mystery” and curing diseases and traumatic injuries.
“As humans, we can identify galaxies light years away, we can studies particles smaller than an atom, but we still haven’t unlocked the mystery of the 3 pounds of matter that sits between our ears,” the president said as he announced the new BRAIN Initiative in the East Room of the White House.
The president said the program, which he first proposed in his State of the Union address, could create jobs and potentially lead to cures for diseases such Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s or autism.
“We can’t afford to miss these opportunities while the rest of the world races ahead,” Obama warned. “We have to seize them. I don’t want the next job-creating discoveries to happen in China or India or Germany. I want them to happen right here, in the United States of America. And that’s part of what this BRAIN initiative’s about.”
Let’s make this clear right now — while researching diseases like those President Obama named is laudable, the United States is flat broke and taxpayers cannot continue to afford paying for it. We just don’t have the money. Also, there is another aspect of continuing to poor federal dollars in scientific research.
This was probably my favorite panel from the main room at CPAC. The heads of the three of the most well-known think tanks in Washington, DC sat down for a talk today about their organizations, working together from time to time, and some of the issues facing the country.
- John Allison, President and Chief Executive Officer, Cato Institute
- Arthur Brooks, President, American Enterprise Institute
- Dr. Edwin Feulner, President, Heritage Foundation
- Moderator: Lawson Bader, President, Competitive Enterprise Institute
I attended the Human Achievement Hour at the Competitive Enterprise Institute over the weekend, a several hour party and networking event. Designed to be the counter to Earth Hour—you know, that time when hippies everywhere turn off their lights for an hour to supposedly show solidarity with Mother Nature—it involves lots of lights, food, drink, and even had a streaming video of it. (In case you saw me on there, I apologize. I never wanted to hurt people with my ugliness.)
But even uglier than me were some of the comments on the event’s Facebook page. Many called it “stupid,” even “evil,” and one person who said “I wasn’t going to turn my lights off, but now I will.” To which I ask these people, why?
There seems to be a misconception that somehow, free market capitalism and individual liberty are in direct opposition to saving the environment. This is not at all the case. Looking at history, what places have the best environments, the best air quality, the most protected wildlife refuges? It’s not in places like Eastern Europe, swamped in smog, or places like India or China or South America. They’re in places that have well defined property rights and a free market system. It all goes back to the Lorax and the Tragedy of the Commons: if you put private property rights in something, people will care about it.