Regulation

In his column today, George Will makes the case for Congress to take responsibility for the enormous costs which regulation imposes on American businesses and consumers. Specifically, he favors the REINS Act, sponsored by Rep. Geoff Davis (R-Ky.).

[Davis's] Regulations From the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act would redress constitutional imbalance and buttress the rule of law by compelling Congress to take responsibility for the substance that executive rulemaking pours into the sometimes almost empty vessels that Congress calls “laws.”

The 165,000 pages of the Code of Federal Regulations contain tens of thousands of rules promulgated by largely unaccountable agencies that churn out more than a thousand new mandates a year. According to the Small Business Administration, regulations cost the economy about $1.75 trillion, almost twice the sum of income tax receipts.

Davis says small businesses are spending $10,500 per employee on regulatory compliance. REINS would require Congress to vote on a resolution of approval concerning every “major” ($100 million economic impact) regulation. There are 212 such among the 4,128 regulations currently in the pipeline from unelected executive agencies. If the vote REINS requires did not occur within 70 days, the regulation would die.

Indeed, CEI’s Wayne Crews has explained another need for the REINS Act: reaffirming Congress’s and the President’s constitutional role.

Congress certainly has over-delegated power to agencies (In that sense, REINS is really a form of Congressional reform rather than executive reform). But alongside over-delegation, there’s outright usurpation such that Congress has to actually try to pass a law to stop an agency from doing what it wasn’t empowered to do in the first place, as Congress was reduced to attempting (it failed) with the FCC’s neutrality rules.

Further, the President doesn’t sign regulatory laws per the “presentment” clause of the Constitution.

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The bottom line is this. REINS does not unconstitutionally “allow” a unicameral “blockage” of law; it validates bi-cameral affirmation and presidential presentment.

For more on the costs that the hidden tax of regulation imposes on Americans, see the recently released 2012 edition of CEI’s annual survey of the federal state, Ten Thousand Commandments.

Over at The American Spectator, I break down the debate over regulation’s impact on the job market and propose one regulation that could create countless jobs:

As everyone knows, winter is coming. And many of the nation’s least-employed states will see a lot of snow this year. Already, giant snowplows are beginning to traverse the highways and byways of Michigan, Ohio, and other states going through hard times. With these plows, one man can do the work of a hundred.

I say we ban snowplows and hand out some shovels.

Think about it for a minute. In Michigan alone, nearly 520,000 people are looking for a job and can’t find one. Tens of thousands of miles of roads zig and zag across the state. If this winter lives up to lofty Midwestern standards, it’s possible that every last one of those 520,000 could work at least part time clearing the way for their fellow citizens. And all because of regulation!

I do enjoy economic humor. Read the whole thing here.

Have a listen here.

Vice President for Policy Wayne Crews is author of the new CEI study, “The Other National Debt Crisis: How and Why Congress Must Quantify Regulation.” He discusses a few of his many ideas for deregulating the economy, including a regulatory budget, improved cost analysis, and lowering the threshold of “economically significant” regulations from $100 million to $25 million. This would require OMB to review more than the roughly 5 percent of new rules that it currently analyzes. The other 95 percent should not slip through the cracks.

This year’s Federal Register is on pace to be 80,190 pages long. That’s an average of 220 pages of fresh proposed rules, final rules, notices, and more every single day.

If this pace keeps up, this year’s Register will make for slightly easier reading than 2010, which set a new record with an 81,405 adjusted page count.

Think about that for a second. 160,000 pages in two years. Even Stephen King couldn’t write that much. Amazing that so many people claim this or that part of the economy is unregulated. With 165,000 pages already in the Code of Federal Regulations and more coming every day, it just ain’t so.

Regulation Roundup

by Ryan Young on September 16, 2011

in Regulation

Post image for Regulation Roundup

Here’s a fresh batch of regulatory bloopers:

  • Flirting is illegal in Haddon, New Jersey. (see § 175-12)
  • It is illegal to play cards on the street in Madison, Iowa.
  • In Haverbill, Massachusetts, it is illegal for women to wrestle.
  • It is a felony for bears to wrestle in Alabama.
  • You may now sit outside year-round in Stratford, Connecticut, if you like.
  • Talk about attention to detail. Massachusetts state law requires gift certificates to be valid for at least 7 years.
  • In Florida, it is illegal to release 11 helium balloons per day. Ten is ok, though.
  • Adams County, Colorado, requires all male massage parlor workers to wear white shirts and white pants. Transparent clothing is expressly forbidden.

I had a letter to the editor in Friday’s Washington Post:

Richard Cohen fretted that Tea Party activists have “shrunk the government.” He need not worry. Federal spending has gone from $2.9 trillion in 2008 to $3.8?trillion in 2011. Thirty percent spending growth in three years is hardly shrinkage. Even under the Boehner plan, federal spending will continue to increase every year for at least the next decade.

Meanwhile, federal agencies continue to finalize more than 3,500 new regulations per year. They repeal almost none, no matter how loud the Tea Party’s howls.

If anything, Tea Party activists have been devastatingly ineffective at shrinking government. Mr. Cohen can rest easy.

Ryan Young, Washington

The writer is a fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Usually, “bipartisan” means “twice as stupid.” But for real regulatory reform to happen, both parties need to be involved. President Obama’s recent executive orders requiring agencies to comb their books and repeal unneeded regulations should save a few billion dollars. But that’s just a drop in a $1.7 trillion bucket. Over at Fox Forum, I explain one bipartisan idea that could potentially save much more:

Agencies cannot be trusted to clean out their own books because they have no incentive to. Agency administrators want to maximize their
missions and budgets. Having them police themselves will not yield real savings.

There is a relatively easy fix: get independent outsiders with no stake in the outcome go through the Code of Federal Regulations make the
repeal recommendations. President Obama should appoint a bipartisan repeal commission to do just that and then send its package of repeal
proposals to Congress.

Congress, worried about backlash from interest groups with vested interests in existing rules, would have every incentive to water down
the package. To avoid that, Congress should impose on itself a requirement to have a straight up-or-down vote on the package within a
short time-say, 10 legislative days-with no amendments allowed.

Read the whole thing here.

Since time immemorial, Cook County, Illinois, has had very strict personal conduct regulations for its forests. Among other things, it has been illegal to:

  • Hang out (only applies to felons)
  • Tell fortunes
  • Have your fly open
  • Juggle
  • Do a somersault
  • Park illegally (redundant?)
  • Perform acrobatic stunts

All those clandestine activities are now legal. Those laws are at least 100 years old, and were mainly intended to prevent traveling circuses and carnivals from setting up shop in the forests surrounding Chicago. No citations for any of these offenses have been issued within living memory.

That’s why Cook County’s forest preserve took the hygienic step of repealing the regulations. If a rule isn’t going to be enforced, or if it is clearly a relic of the horse-and-buggy era, it shouldn’t be on the books. Legislators around the country at all levels of government would do well to follow the example that Cook County’s forest preserve has set. It’s the regulatory version of spring cleaning.

The Constitution’s Commerce Clause gives Congress the power to regulate commerce. What does that mean, exactly? Over at the Daily Caller, my colleague Jacque Otto explain that regulation is about making commerce regular: no barriers to entry or trade, clear, understandable, and consistent rules, and so on.

Most of what people call regulation doesn’t have anything to with regular commerce. These kinds of rules are more accurately called interventions.

These interventions didn’t appear out of thin air, either:

One important reason regulators intervene is that many businesses want them to — businesses spend considerable effort and resources lobbying Washington to that end. For the most part, American companies compete on quality, price, or other consumer preferences. But on too many occasions, some companies try to use regulatory interventions to dispatch the competition. Sprint’s efforts to squander AT&T’s proposed purchase of T-Mobile are emblematic of this troubling trend.

Lessons abound for antitrust regulators — sorry, interveners.

Regulation Roundup

by Ryan Young on June 3, 2011

in Regulation

Some of the stranger goings-on in the world of regulation: