Written by William F. Jasper
The Competitive Enterprise Institute’s annual “Ten Thousand Commandments” report sheds much-needed light on the size and scope of federal regulations.
According to the CEI’s most recent report, released on May 5, federal regulations took nearly a two trillion dollar bite out of the U.S. economy in 2013. To be precise, the fedgov regulatory burden was a mind-boggling $1.863 trillion. The report aims to establish a baseline for the largely unknown “hidden tax” of the U.S. regulatory state, since more than 99 percent of federal regulations are never subjected to cost-benefit analysis.
The report’s author, Clyde Wayne Crews, Jr., notes that federal agencies crank out thousands of new regulations every year, but we have little information on the cost or effectiveness of most of them. Crews said: “There is little transparency and no reliable source of information on exactly what benefits all these rules are supposed to be generating or if they are serving their intended purpose.”
Most of the country is focused on our spending and debt problem, but unless we also address our nation’s regulatory burden, our economy will remain under water.
Says Crews: “When compared to federal spending, the cost of federal regulations was more than half the size of the federal government’s 2013 budget of $3.5 trillion, and this is part of what is holding back American innovation and wealth creation.”
The federal regulations now take up 79,311 pages in the Federal Register. The average family, with an average income of $65,596, will “pay” $15,000 in regulatory costs, or about a quarter of the family’s income, buried in the prices of everything they consume.
Crews says that if the regulatory state were a separate country, it would be in the top 10 of all countries in the world, bigger even than Canada or Australia. This doesn’t count the regulatory costs levied on small businesses, either. Companies with fewer than 20 employees pay more than $10,000 a year, per employee, to pay for the regulations, while larger firms pay less per employee but much more in total.
Bob Adelmann, reporting on the Crews study, put the colossal regulatory tax totals in perspective, using imagery compiled by the Youth Film Festival, or YFF.
YFF measures a trillion in time:
How long ago is a trillion seconds?
If you count backward, 1 million seconds is 12 days ago.
1 billion seconds is 31 years ago.
A trillion seconds? 30,000 B.C.
Now, double that to 60,000 B.C., and you get some idea of the $2 Trillion burden.
They measure a trillion in height:
How high is a trillion in $1,000 bills?
1 million dollars is 4 inches high.
1 billion dollars is 364 feet high.
1 trillion dollars is … are you ready? … 63 miles high!
Now, once again, double that, to 126 miles high — for a stack of $1,000 bills, remember, and you get some inkling of the mind-blowing size, cost, and wastefulness of our federal regulatory state.
Had enough? Well, Congress created the federal regulatory monsters that are devouring our wealth and our freedom, and Congress continues to fund these agencies. If you aren’t holding your Congressman accountable for this, you don’t have much excuse for complaining. Find out how your congressman is voting by going to The New American’s “Freedom Index,” which rates Congress based on the U.S. Constitution.