Investor's Business Daily
Regulation Nation: The administration proposed 229 new rules in July and finalized another 379. Sen. John Barrasso says that 31 days of regulatory excess will cost the economy $9.5 billion. The madness must stop.
Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican, issued his regulations memo last week. If he's on the mark, federal red tape will add as much as $114 billion in new costs to the economy a year — no small hit.
With this in mind, Republicans are planning to make a hard run at regulatory reform next month when they will reportedly press the Reins Act.
Reins stands for "regulations from the executive in need of scrutiny." It would require congressional approval of all regulations that have an expected yearly economic impact of more than $100 million.
Opponents argue that it would, in the words of Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein, "make regulating virtually impossible."
Yes, and that's exactly the point.
Or close to it. The progressives are almost charming in their naivete. They can't quite comprehend that there are others who don't believe that more government is the path to health, happiness and prosperity.
It's a shock to their systems to learn that not everyone shares their worldview that government must always administrate, manipulate and grow.
Strip away the embellishments from the left, though, and it's plain to see that the Reins Act would not make it virtually impossible to regulate.
Even by the left's own reckoning, there would be no more than 100, and maybe as few as 50, regulations for Congress to vote on each year under the legislation. Thousands of bills and resolutions are introduced in Congress annually. Lawmakers can handle a few more.
The wrongly named progressives also grouse that these regulations Congress would be voting on are, according to Noah Sachs of the New Republic, "critically important."
A few might be. And they will surely be passed if they are indeed "critically important."
But those aren't the rules Republicans want to crack down on, anyway. They want to remove the regulatory boot of government from the private sector's neck.
The federal regulatory burden didn't just begin in July, when the bureaucracy racked up more than 600 new rules that Americans must live by.
It's been around for some time. The 2011 edition of the Competitive Enterprise Institute's annual "Ten Thousand Commandments" study sums up nicely the state of America's regulatory regime.
"At the end of 2009, the Code of Federal Regulations was 157,974 pages long," says the report. "In 2010, 3,752 new rules hit the books — equivalent to a new regulation coming into effect every 2 hours and 20 minutes, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year."
Regulatory excess causes more than just a flood of paper. A study by economists Nicole V. Crain and W. Mark Crain for the Small Business Administration found that the yearly cost of regulations in the U.S. hit more than $1.75 trillion in 2008. That's roughly 14% of the economy.
Broken down by household, the cost was $15,586 for 2008 — by comparison, about 50% more than average household spending on health care for the year.
The red-tape burden also hurts job growth. The Crains found that regulatory cost on business "was $8,086 per employee in 2008."
Worse, small businesses, which create more than 80% of new jobs, are taxed more harshly than medium and large businesses. They bore a "regulatory cost of $10,585 per employee" in 2008.
No wonder our unemployment rate — 9.1% — is so high. Holding on to existing workers and hiring new employees is just too costly.
Americans need relief from regulation and Republicans say they're going to give it to them. But it's unlikely improvements will come soon. If somehow the Reins Act were to pass in the Democratic Senate, there's no way President Obama will sign it. His idea of job growth is to increase the federal bureaucracy.
There will be no relief until those obsessed with imposing ever-more layers of regulation on us are the minority in Washington.