The The Wall Street Journal editorial board weighed in this morning on the issue of regulation, citing a few numbers from the forthcoming 20th anniversary edition of Wayne Crews’ annual Ten Thousand Commandments report. Here’s a taste:
For two decades, Wayne Crews of the Competitive Enterprise Institute has tracked the growth of new federal regulations. In his 20th anniversary edition this week, he’ll report that pages in the Code of Federal Regulations hit an all-time high of 174,545 in 2012, an increase of more than 21% during the last decade.
Relying largely on government data, Mr. Crews estimates that in 2012 the cost of federal rules exceeded $1.8 trillion, roughly equal to the GDP of Canada. These costs are embedded in nearly everything Americans buy. Mr. Crews calculates these costs at $14,768 per household, meaning that red tape is now the second largest item in the typical family budget after housing.
Last week, 71 new final regulations were published in the Federal Register. This is up from 64 new final rules the previous week.
That’s the equivalent of a new regulation every 2 hours and 22 minutes — 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
All in all, 1,298 final rules have been published in the Federal Register this year.
If this keeps up, the total tally for 2013 will be 3,458 new final rules.
Last week, 1,377 new pages were added to the 2013 Federal Register, for a total of 29,188 pages.
At its current pace, the 2013 Federal Register will run 76,011 pages.
Rules are called “economically significant” if they have costs of $100 million or more in a given year. For the fourth week in a row, no such rules were published last week, for a total of 12 so far in 2013.
The total estimated compliance costs of this year’s economically significant regulations ranges from $5.58 billion to $10.19 billion.
So far, 91 final rules that meet the broader definition of “significant” have been published in 2013.
So far this year, 237 final rules affect small business; 21 of them are significant rules.
This new video from our friends at Cato about the growing IRS scandal is well worth five minutes of your time. Features the ACLU’s Michael MacLeod-Ball, David Keating from the Center for Competitive Politics, and Cato’s John Samples and Gene Healy (Gene’s column on the same subject is also worth reading). Click here if the video embedded below doesn’t work.
A new technology called a “wearable robot” – basically a pair of robotic legs – enables paralyzed people to walk. As Vice President Joe Biden might say, this is a big deal. It will be ready for the market in about a year. But the real obstacle may be regulators, who have yet to approve the device.
In Swaziland, witches may no longer fly broomsticks more than 150 meters above the ground. The regulation is enforced by the country’s civil avaiation authority. The penalty for violators is R500,000 (South African Rands), which is equivalent to a little more than $54,000. Swaziland’s per capita GDP is $3,831. Strangely, there is no penalty for witches whose broomstick-flying adventures remain under 150 meters.
Another federal appeals court has ruled that President Obama’s so-called “recess appointments” to the National Labor Relations Board were unconstitutional because the Senate was not in recess at the time: “We hold that the Recess of the Senate in the Recess Appointments Clause refers to only intersession breaks.” So ruled the majority of a three-judge panel of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, in its 2-to-1 ruling in NLRB v. New Vista Nursing and Rehabilitation. Generally, our Constitution’s system of checks and balances requires Senate approval of Presidential appointees, but this requirement, found in Article II’s Appointments Clause, contains an exception for temporary recess appointments made during “the recess” of the Senate.
The appeals court noted that other courts such as the Eleventh Circuit have permitted recess appointments not just in “intersession breaks” but also “breaks within a session (i.e., intrasession breaks) that last for a non-negligible time.” But President Obama’s “recess” appointments would not be valid even under that broader reading of his powers (as I previously explained).
Obama’s appointments of the NLRB members would be valid only under a still broader, radically expansive interpretation of the Recess Appointments Clause that would gut the Senate’s power to review Presidential appointments. The NLRB and the Obama administration argue that recess appointments can be made whenever “the Senate is not open to conduct business” — presumably including when the Senate goes home for the evening or even takes a lunch break — and even includes “periods in which the Senate holds pro forma sessions” but is not available to vote on nominations. This argument is of “recent vintage,” noted the appeals court, and is plainly contrary to the Recess Appointments Clause’s “meanings at the time of ratification” of the Constitution.
(The court’s opinion, issued on May 16, is quite lengthy: the majority opinion totals 102 pages, while the dissent runs 55 pages.)
In an earlier ruling in Noel Canning v. NLRB, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals reached the same conclusion as the Third Circuit, finding that there was simply no “recess” in existence to authorize the President to make these so-called recess appointments. In its January 25 decision, the D.C. Circuit also noted that Obama’s appointments were invalid for an additional reason: the Recess Appointments Clause only authorizes appointments to fill vacancies that “happen” during a recess, and even the Obama administration admits that the vacancies occurred before, rather than during, any recess.The Obama administration has recently filed a petition with the Supreme Court asking it to review and reverse the D.C. Circuit’s decision. Its petition contradicts prior administration claims by admitting that the D.C. Circuit’s ruling will, if allowed to stand, also invalidate other Obama administration “recess” appointments, such as the appointment of Richard Cordray to head the powerful Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Cordray’s appointment was as invalid as the NLRB appointments, since he was “recess” appointed by Obama during the same non-existent recess.
The bitter fight over Gina McCarthy, President Obama’s nominee for EPA Administrator, is headed to the Senate floor under a potential filibuster threat. Myron Ebell, Director of CEI’s Center for Energy and Environment, explains that the deeper cause of this political fight is a startling lack of transparency at the EPA that McCarthy is unlikely to fix.
News stories trumping junk science are common, but I expect better from Fox News, which claims to be “fair and balanced” and hosts great shows like STOSSEL. And they’ve run some of my commentaries, which I appreciate. That’s why I am perplexed by some Fox reports on environmental issues, many of which seem to peddle junk science pushed by activists at the Environmental Working Group (EWG).
For example, the other day Fox published a silly story from Prevention magazine on how chemicals found in popcorn cooked in nonstick pans might give you heart disease based on a single study that found a statistical association, which can occur by mere chance. How many other studies failed to find an association? The article doesn’t bother to go there—rather, it says: “Scary? You bet.” The article does offer a weak qualifier, stating that “more research needs to be done to determine the specific relationship between PFOA [the chemical used in non-stick the pans] and cardiovascular disease.”
Yet EWG’s Shoppers’ Guide is a perversion of data that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) collects annually to measure traces of pesticides found on produce. Residue levels are always extremely low, and USDA and the Environmental Protection Agency both explain that the data demonstrates that levels are too low to pose significant health risks. Yet EWG lists healthy foods—such as apples—as “dirty” because they have a few extra parts per billion of trace pesticide residues. The response should be: Who cares? The levels are too low to have an impact, and eating these foods is certainly good for your health.
In the below video, U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield (KY-01) talks about the Environmental Protection Agency’s discriminatory practice of granting fee waivers to political allies and denying them to critics—a practice CEI Senior Fellow Christopher Horner recently made public. (Whitfield begins talking about the issue around the 1:17 mark.)
The state of Indiana regulates the temperature at which convenience stores may sell beer. Specifically, they must sell it at room temperature. Cold beer is forbidden. The law, unique to Indiana, is presumably motivated by temperance concerns. People can’t buy beer on the spur of the moment and it drink it cold right away. They have to take it home and refrigerate it first. Instead of instant gratification, people have to plan ahead. This promotes more responsible drinking habits, the thinking goes.
Then again, the law exempts wine sales. Any Indianan who wants to can buy a chilled bottle of wine from the local 7-11 and drink it immediately. Instead of keeping people sober, the law amounts in practice to discrimination against beer. Wine producers might not mind that so much, but nearly everyone else does.
Even so, a push to overturn the law in the legislature failed earlier this year. That’s why three convenience store chains are suing to overturn the law. The case is currently moving through federal court. An employee of one chain told WISH, a local television station:
“Thorton’s has not built a convenience store in Indiana since 2006,” said David Bridgers of Thorton’s convenience stores, “for the sole reason of its antiquated alcohol laws.”
So not only does Indiana’s warm beer law fail to promote temperance, it is directly hampering job creation in the state.
Action is heating up on the next farm bill, as the Senate Agriculture Committee today completed its markup of their bill which will go to the Senate for consideration. The House is scheduled to release its markup on Wednesday. No surprise – the Senate bill is replete with subsidies and support programs that cost tens of billions of dollars.
Yesterday, in anticipation of the markup, eleven taxpayer and policy groups sent a letter to the House and the Senate with its listing of the “Terrible Twelve” – the twelve most egregious farm policies. The groups urged policymakers to reform or eliminate these costly and distorting programs:
Amendments are likely to be introduced on the floor in both the House and the Senate to reform some of these wasteful programs. But the farm programs are a classic example of concentrated benefits and dispersed costs. In addition, because nutrition and food stamp programs make up the majority of the costs of the farm bill, both urban and rural policymakers form an unholy bipartisan alliance to push farm bills through. Bipartisanship isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.