Measuring the Red Tape   Leave a comment

Unlike federal taxation and spending, there is no official accounting of total regulatory costs. Estimates range from hundreds of billions of dollars to nearly $2 trillion each year. However, the number and cost of new regulations can be tracked, and both are growing substantially.

The most comprehensive source of data on new regulations is the Federal Rules Database maintained by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). According to the GAO data, federal regulators issued 2,605 new rules during Obama’s fourth year in office. Of these, 69 were classified as “major,” generally defined as having an expected economic impact of at least $100 million per year. Forty-two of these major rules were administrative or budgetary in nature, such as Medicare payment rates or hunting limits on migratory birds; twenty-five were “prescriptive” regulations that imposed burdens on private-sector activity. Only two major rules decreased regulation. During the President’s first term there were 131 prescriptive rules. This compares to 52 such rules imposed during George W. Bush’s first term. And, no, I’m not saying this made Bush a good president in terms of regulation. I’m saying he produced less regulation than Obama.

Based on agencies’ own analyses, more than $23.5 billion in new annual costs were added last year, which brought Obama’s first-term total to $69.8 billion. In addition, there were $4.6 billion in one-time implementation costs in 2012, raising the first-term total for one-time implementation costs to nearly $12 billion.

Only two major rules adopted in 2012 reduced regulatory burdens, providing just $81 million in savings. For the entire first term, there were only 12 such rules, worth $857 million in savings—about 1.2 percent of the new costs. Four major regulations, representing $982 million in costs, also were invalidated by the courts. Subtracting these amounts from a gross total of $71.6 billion in new costs leaves the total increase of $69.8 billion. This compares to $15.7 billion during the first four years of the Bush 43 administration. For those of you who are math challenged, that’s a better than 4:1 ratio.

According to research by Washington University in St. Louis and George Washington University’s Regulatory Studies Center, federal spending on regulatory agencies increased more than 10% in President Obama’s first term. Staff levels grew by 21,654 full-time employees in the same period, which is an 8% increase.

No wonder the federal budget overflowth! And, the question remains – did any of these new regulations make us healthier, wealthier or happier?

Personally, my income did not go up, but my costs did, which means I’m eating lower quality food in smaller quantities and keeping my house a few degrees cooler. So, poorer and less healthy – CHECK.

Oh, wait a minute! I think I’m moving in the wrong direction. And, no, I’m not happy about it.

Life, liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Where did that go?

I didn’t see a tentacle! There are no tentacles! Any impression that you have lost rights or freedoms is purely a product of a propaganda-fueled imagination. The administrative state is our friend! Red tape is the price we pay for a well-ordered society.

There is absolutely NOTHING to WORRY about!

Uh, except THAT!


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