Big Government, Issues

Regulation Nation


If you look at the methodology behind the major measures of economic liberty, such as Economic Freedom of the World and Index of Economic Freedom, you’ll notice that each nation’s regulatory burden is just as important as the overall fiscal burden.

Yet there doesn’t seem to be adequate appreciation for the importance of restraining red tape. I’ve tried to highlight the problem with some very depressing bits of information.

Unfortunately, these bad numbers are getting worse.

We start with the fact that there’s a natural tendency for more intervention in Washington because of the Obama Administration’s statist orientation.

That’s the bad news. The worse news is that this tendency to over-regulate is becoming more pronounced as Obama’s time in office is winding down.

I’ve already opined on the record levels of red tape emanating from Washington, but it’s getting even worse in the President’s final year.

Here’s what the Wall Street Journal recently wrote about the regulatory wave.

…government-by-decree that is making Mr. Obama the most prolific American regulator of all time. Unofficially, Mr. Obama’s Administration has once again broken its own record by issuing a staggering 82,036 pages of new and proposed rules and instructions in the Federal Register in 2015. …That would not only eclipse Mr. Obama’s record of 81,405 set in 2010; it would also give him six of the seven most prolific years of regulating in the history of the American republic. He’s a champion when it comes to limiting economic freedom, and American workers have the slow growth in jobs and wages to prove it. …His Administration is also in a class by itself in issuing de facto rules as “notices” or “guidance” that are ignored by businesses at their peril. …And there’s much more to come.

Amen. The WSJ is correct to link the regulatory burden with anemic economic performance.

As I point out in this interview, red tape is akin to sand in the economy’s gears.

By the way, I can’t resist emphasizing that the Nordic nations, much beloved by Bernie Sanders and other leftists, generally are more free market than the United States on non-fiscal issues.

In other words, they have a more laissez-faire approach on matters such as regulation.

Now let’s try to quantify the cost of all this red tape.

The Washington Examiner reports on some new research.

The price of the Obama administration’s regulatory burden hit just shy of $200 billion last year, or $784 million for every day his government was open for business, according to a new analysis by American Action Forum.

To make matters worse, as I noted in the interview, I very much suspect the bulk of that new regulation was not accompanied by cost-benefit analysis. So the supposed benefits will be small and the actual costs will be high.

Let’s move from the general to the specific. The Heritage Foundation has a list of the worst regulations from last year. Here are some of the highlights, though lowlights would be a better term.

  • …a ban by New Jersey on sales of tombstones by churches — adopted in March at the behest of commercial monument makers.
  • Certain New York restaurants now have to include warnings on their menus about the sodium content in many popular dishes.
  • The Occupational Safety and Health Administration…expanded its mandate in June by declaring that businesses should allow employees to use whichever restroom corresponds to their “gender identity.”
  • …the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers expanded their own jurisdiction to regulate virtually every wet spot in the nation.

And there are plenty more if you really want to get depressed.

But let’s not dwell on bad news. Instead, we’ll close by highlighting a potentially helpful bit of regulatory reform north of the border. Here are some blurbs from a story in the Washington Examiner.

…look to Canada for lessons from its experiment with regulatory budgeting. What is regulatory budgeting? It’s a process that seeks to use traditional budget concepts to better manage regulatory costs. The goal is to require government departments and agencies to prioritize and manage “regulatory expenditures,”… Regulatory budgeting imposes hard caps on departments and agencies and requires that new regulatory policies fit within their respective budgets. It may not be a silver bullet to the U.S. government’s regulatory profligacy, but with strong political leadership and a proper design, it can arrest the growth of new regulations and bring greater accountability, discipline and transparency to the process. …Departments and agencies are given a “baseline” calculation of regulatory requirements and the costs they impose on individuals and businesses, and then are expected to live within their respective budgets. This means — at least, in the case of the federal experiment — that any new regulatory requirements be offset by eliminating existing ones with equivalent “costs.” An independent, third-party panel verifies the government’s year-over-year compliance.

And it appears this new system is yielding dividends.

Over the past two years, the federal government estimates the system has saved Canadian businesses more than C$32 million in administrative burden, as well as 750,000 hours spent dealing with “red tape.” Most importantly, regulatory budgeting has gradually contributed to a more disciplined regulatory process by rewarding departments and agencies for finding lower-cost options and for making existing requirements smarter and less burdensome.

Hmmm…, maybe I should consider escaping to Canada rather than Australia if (when?) America falls apart.

In addition to this sensible approach on regulatory reform, Canada is now one of the world’s most economically free nations thanks to relatively sensible policies involving spending restraint, corporate tax reform, bank bailouts, the tax treatment of saving, and privatization of air traffic control. Heck, Canada even has one of the lowest levels of welfare spending among developed nations.

Though things are now heading in the wrong direction, which is unfortunate for our northern neighbors.

P.S. While the regulatory burden in the United States is stifling and there are some really inane examples of silly rules (such as the ones listed above), I think Greece and Japan win the record if you want to identify the most absurd specific examples of red tape.

P.P.S. Though I suspect America wins the prize for worst regulatory agency and most despicable regulatory practice.

P.P.P.S. Here’s what would happen if Noah tried to comply with today’s level of red tape when building an ark.

P.P.P.P.S. Just in case you think regulation is “merely” a cost imposed on businesses, don’t forget that bureaucratic red tape is the reason we’re now forced to use inferior light bulbs, substandard toilets, second-rate dishwashers, and inadequate washing machines.

This is a guest post by Dan Mitchell “a high priest of light tax small state libertarianism”
  • donald540

    OUR nation has become a nation of WEAK KNEED self centered idiots that will do almost NOTHING to save our FREEDOMS from this LIAR-in-CHIEF that tells us LIES to try to persuade us to do thing HIS WAY and we just roll over and let him do what he wants with very little resistance to any OUTRAGIOUS regulation he wants to PILE onto us citizens of America, and he has PILED regulation after regulation so deep that I do not know if we can every get ALL of them repealed.

    • Robert

      It amazes me to read the stuff some people write. i suppose you think OBAMA made all the regulations that are in place in his 7 years in office, just as many regulations were made when Reagan and Bush’s were in office. I will agree some Government paperwork is in excell, bu it is not just the federal Government that is doing this it is the State and local Governments as well no matter which administration is in office. If you will check the register, Obama has put in place less regulations than either on of the Bush’s.

      • donald540

        It is NOT really the number but the TYPE of regulations he has FORCED on the American public to gain a LOT of control of America.

        He has virtual control of the health care industry, the financial industry, the environment, the judicial, PLUS HE just TELLS almost anybody in the government what he wants done and most of the time it gets done.

        The next logical step would be for him to install MATIAL LAW to solidify his control over America and we will then be under his TOTAL control and be HIS SLAVES.

        • Robert

          It is quite evident that you do not like OBAMA, the controls that have been put in place are not enough to protect the people he has sworn to protect. The Health Care industry has been running rip shod over the people since it inception, due to its importance it should have price controls on everything to do with health care and it should be a totally Not For Profit and the salaries should be set on the directors. The Financial industry has also run wild with other peoples money, and lost a lot of the average persons retirement funds not their own, Roosevelt put restrictions in place so that the Financial institution could not play fast and loose with other persons money, but they got that removed and 10 years later the housing bubble and that cost every tax payer a large sum of money, and not one of the Financial industry got any charges brought against them. The environment if you are talking about Global warming then we need carbon based fuel emissions reduced. The Judicial system and the Police have been out of control since the 60s they need to be brought in line with today’s society. Obama has had less success at getting things he anted done than most Presidents.
          HAVE A NICE DAY

          • donald540

            LOOKS like you have had your SHARE of our LIAR-in-CHIEF’s coo laid and takes everything he says as FACT.
            Everything he has done just makes America WEAKER and he has DEMONIZED America with the entire free world
            He has PANDERED to our enemies and bad mouthed our friends.
            Those thing he says will help US just makes us WEAKER.
            He has encouraged our citizens to NOT work and to become LAZY by just telling everybody he will give them as much help as he can with NO restrictions.
            We do NOT get to be a HEALTHY country by having everybody getting unearned help from our LIAR-in-CHIEF because they are NOT ENOUGH people earning and paying into those government to PAY FOR ALL of those thing that our LIAR-in-CHIEF says he wants to do FOR US.
            The MILLIONS of immigrants the he is just LETTING to come here ILLEGALLY without any VETTING to see if they are even what they say they are, is just LETTING unsavory people to come here to do whatever they want and YOU and I are paying them to stay here when they do NOTHING that might help them to survive living here. Plus they want to change America into their IDEA of what country they want to live in and NOT a safe haven to live in until they can go home.

          • Robert

            What has Obama done to make this country weaker. Fact The main reason we have such a high unfavorable rating in the world is because we are never held accountable for what we do., but the US wants every other country held accountable. The reason in the Middle east is that Israel is never held accountable for what they do because of the veto powers in the UN the USA has, and every other county is held accountable.
            Obama did not lead anyone to become lazy, that is a persons own choice, but it is added to by the Companies that move to cheap labor source and a lot of that is caused by th Unions, I had a neighbor that went to work in a Union factory and at the end of the first week the Union Steward came to him and told him he had to slow down on the thing he was working on because the other workers were complaining that he was making them look bad. That is what has caused the laziness in this country. There is a saying never buy an American product that was made on Friday or Monday, because the Friday worker was in a hurry for the week end and the Monday worker was to tired on Monday to do it right.
            Taxes are an inevitable thing in this day and time, but it is the Corporate greed that takes your tax money.and gives you nothing back in return.
            I do not want to change America in to anyone’s dream place. I just would like to see the Greed and Corruption in the Political system gone and taxes would automatically come down and there would be work for everyone who wants to work.
            If there was no work for these illegals then they would not be here, you portray them as lazy and living off of the system, most can not even get on the system and work to support themselves and family.
            Just remember one thing the 9-11 terrorist’s were here legally on Visas that were current they did not sneak over the border.
            In any group of individuals you will have a mixture of all kinds but in the end only a very small percentage are freeloaders or criminals. Now you want to talk about the real criminals go to the Canadian border, which is so porous that the criminals just walk in with no hindrance, a lot come through the Indian reservations that US Government has no right into. These are hardened criminals from Russia and Europe not persons looking for honest work.
            HAVE A NICE DAY

          • donald540

            Our LIAR-in-CHIEF is PUSHING everybody to do HIS handy work and HIS inaction is LETTING everybody in America to just do what they want with NO accountability and our LIAR-in-CHIEF is encouraging them to just do whatever they want.
            As for the criminals coming here HE IS inviting them to come here ILLEGALLY and some of them ARE TERRORISTS intent on changing America into Islamic controlled country.
            Our LIAR-in-CHIEF does a great job of LEADING from behind and NEVR taking responsibility for anything that happens and JUMPS on ANYTHING that even LOOKS like it was racist even when it is PROVEN that he was WRONG but he NEVER takes responsibility for his FALSE accusations.
            He goes around congress every time he even thinks he might do this UNCONSTITUTIONAL actions.
            He his a DICTATOR and is trying to become the “KING” and that would make YOU and the rest of Americans his SLAVE./surf.

          • Robert

            have you ever considered seeing a MENTAL HEALTH SPECIALIST.
            I think you really need one because you voice things that are not possible fro a President to do, no matter who is President.
            I think in my opinion from reading the stuff you write you are a just a little bit color prejudice.

          • Allen

            The troll plays the race card! Not a surprise

          • Robert

            I enjoy debating with intelligent people of which you are not one.
            As Humphrey Bogart said in the movie “A FEW GOOD MEN,”
            “You can’t handle the Truth.”
            I do not remember you ever complaining when Bush and Cheney , cost the lives of over 500 good men because they wanted the Iraq oil. I do remember the speech made on television that the Iraq’s would welcome us with open arms, I knew that was a lie because the majority of the people in Iraq liked Hussein, all the intelligence community knew, it because he kept the radicals in check, and thanks to the Bush Presidency the were all let loose to reek havoc on the whole area.

          • Allen

            TROLL TROLL TROLL — You have never used a fact in your life. “The majority of people in Iraq like Hussein” — really. That’s what you are going with. No wonder. You are like every single other left wing slimeball who ever slithered out of the muck of socialist summer camps — Yes, Joe Stalin was popular, Mao was a god and Fidel is beloved of his people.

            You want a fact, here’s one — you and your murderous ideology of corporate fascism or democratic socialism whatever you want to call your brutal government-run command economy is responsible for over 100 million deaths in the 20th Century. That’s a fact, Jack.

            NOW YOU GO HAVE A NICE DAY AND THINK ABOUT HOW YOUR IDEOLOGY HAS MURDERED more people in less time thane ever in human history.

          • Robert

            I suppose you have been to Iraq and talked to the people there. If the people hated Hussein then why did they not welcome us with the open arms that Bush said in his speech. I suppose a person of your intellect would think that Communism and Democratic Socialism are the same. I think you should go to a dictionary and find out the difference. If you think that there is a difference between the Parties you are sadly mistaken, there is no longer Democracy in our Government, by the way Thomas Jefferson said that Democracy was another word for a willing slave. Our government is an Oligarchy, government, where the rich control everything just like a crooked empire with the Dons
            If you think USSR was a socialist government then you would think that North Korea is a Democratic Government because PDR strands for Peoples Democratic Republic.
            The type of Government these people died under was a totalitarianism government and that is the only type of Government it was.
            An education would do you a world of good, not the propaganda the Governments of any country put out.
            The Ideology is on your side of the table not mine.
            HAVE A NICE DAY

          • Allen

            Rave on Internet Troll — your stupidity is only matched by your ignorance.

            I suppose you’ve been to Iraq and talked to the people there. Since you know they loved Saddam. You talk about propaganda and not being fooled but you are nothing but a propaganda machine, programmed by statist elites to parrot their mindless pap.

            You do understand that your philosophy of socialism is totalitarianism. There is no moral distinction. Socialism leads to totalitarianism inevitably. And the deaths of millions is the logical conclusion of your obsession with using force to bend humans to your will.
            You want to dress up your driving need to command and control people in the window dressing of for their own good or equality or fairness but it devolves into you and your ilk lording it over your “people” until they submit or die.

            I didn’t say anything about the political parties. I only know the difference between brownshirts like you and those who reject coercion and violence to achieve political ends. Since you are a fanatic about using force to achieve your ends, you are an implacable enemy of freedom and seek to crush it wherever it blooms.

            Go back to torturing puppies and leave the rest of us alone. I know you wont take this advice because you can’t stand the thought of anyone disagreeing with your silly theories and that makes you mad enough to kill like your heroes Stalin, Hitler and Mao

          • Robert

            Yes i spent a good bit of time in Iraq between 68 o 71, the reason the common people like Hussein is because he let all religions live in peace. Do you remember any Radical Groups in Iraq threatening the peace of the country when he was in power. He was a brutal dictator by all accounts but he held the peace. The USA installed a government in power in Iraq that is all about the money and not about the people, the Shi’ites are like one of our polital parties only thinking about the well heeled and let the rest rot in Oblivion
            You keep telling me Socialism is a totalitarian type of Government, let me ask you this why has Europe been so prosperous in the past 150 years. Tell me how many mass executions have happened there and how many political prisoners that are against the Government that are incarcerated. Industry thrives and persons who live there are much happier than in the USA.
            When did I ever condone force to make persons believe what I say.
            Your narrow mind should get expanded if you were to do some research on subjects and not just state your opinion.
            You are just like the robots in a factory I was told this and i will do that, I will never question unless it is not my instructer telling something.

          • donald540

            I agree that it is NOT what a President would do because he is NOT a GOOD President.
            We NEED to get him out of the WH so we can get a President in the WH that will work FOR the American public and NOT for himself.

          • Robert

            Let me open your eyes to a few things, the President and Congress no matter which party they are are going to do the bidding of the people who made it possible for them to be there. In today political system it is not about what they can do for the country it is what they can do for the people who got them elected and it is not you or me it is the people who finance their reelection.
            If you think trump or any other Republican in the White House is going to care about you me or anyone else except the person who donated large sums to their reelection campaign. Trump has made his money though Connections not knowledge and he will not forget his connections once he is elected.
            No matter who is President they will look out for the person who has their ear and you can bet it is not the common person.
            HAVE A GOOD DAY

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