“A billion here and a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money” – says fmr. Senator Everett Dirksen regarding regulations.
For all the jib-jab this election season over taxes and spending, any talk of the “gorilla in the room” — the billions and billions wasted each year in the name of federal regs — is a pretty rare bird.
Why is that? A recent study says that in 2012 alone, the costs of federal regulations alone, based on the added regulations since 1980 alone, were $4 trillion, or $13,000 per American. Which is to say that the figure would be even higher if we include pre-1980 regulations, state regulation, local regulation, etc.
President Obama has been at the helm for incredible growth in federal regulation including as the authors point out in Obamacare, carbon emissions, and finance. But he’s not that much worse than Bush or Clinton.
Politically, the problem with regulations is that they mostly sound like a great idea. If you’re opposed to Obamacare, you oppose expanding healthcare for Americans; if you’re opposed to Sarbanes-Oxley, you’re in the pocket of greedy rich Wall Street. Cut back the Department of the Interior and you’re threatening polar bears, etc. So usually, regulation goes only in one direction, since regulation is easy to support and suicidal to oppose. Even President Reagan did less in the name of de-regulation than most think he did.
All this said, Americans aren’t stupid, and if politicians would find a way to communicate the cost of regulations, there would be more support for giving them a hard look. It’s something like the budget: if it’s not cut with a scalpel, eventually we’ll need a hatchet.
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