Competitive Enterprise Institute
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.
The renewed debate over immigration reform has led to some very strong opinions, but one particular issue that has been lost in the mix is the need for more high-skilled workers in the United States.
The visa system for high-skilled workers — known as H-1B visas or STEM visas — is in dire need of modernization. This system allows businesses to temorarily employ foreign workers who have college degrees in various fields, including science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
The system, however, limits the number of workers who can obtain these visas to 65,000 per year, meaning that many high-skilled workers see employment in other countries instead of waiting to come to the United States.
Along with a number of his colleagues from both sides of the aisle, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) recently introduced legislation — the Immigration Innovation Act (also known as the I-Squared Act) — that would bring a much needed overhaul to the H-1B visa system and more economic benefit to the United States.
The Immigration Innovation Act would increase the annual cap on high-skilled workers who can obtain H-1B visas from 65,000 to 115,000 and also provide a manner of flexibility that would allow the cap to be raised even higher to meet labor demand inside the United States. The legislation would also remove the cap for high-skilled workers with advanced degrees, which is currently limited to 20,000 per year.
A coalition of freedom-minded groups — including the American Conservative Union, Americans for Tax Reform, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute — have endorsed the plan.
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?
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
In 2012, three major changes happened in the policy world inside the Beltway: three presidents of three conservative and libertarian think tanks stepped aside, and now we have three new presidents in their place.
At Cato, long time president Ed Crane left as part of a settlement ending a long and bitter battle between him and Charles and David Koch. The battle was over who controlled the Cato Institute, after former chairman William Niskanen died. In the end, the shareholders’ agreement that was in place was dissolved, Ed Crane left, the Koch brothers agreed to be hands off, and in came John Allison, former CEO of BB&T bank. While I wrote a fond tribute for Mr. Crane when he left, I look forward to Allison’s tenure and I hope for the best.
At the other libertarian think tank in DC, the founder and president of the Competitive Enterprise Institute is also preparing to step down. Fred Smith will leave on New Year’s (though he’ll stick around to keep fighting the good fight), to be replaced by Mercatus VP Lawson Bader. Bader has experience on Capitol Hill and in think tanks, and as being the “kilts guy.” (His Twitter handle is @LibertyNKilts, for crying out loud.) He’s a great choice for such an esteemed institution as CEI.
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.