The hidden cost of federal regulation is taking its toll on Americans’ wallets, and the Obama administration has done more to expand the dense web of regulation than any before it.
That’s the gist of a Wall Street Journal editorial designed to showcase an area of government intervention that seldom gets its due in the nation conversation.
The Federal Register finished 2013 at 79,311 pages, the fourth highest total in history. That didn’t match President Obama’s 2010 all-time record of 81,405 pages. But Mr. Obama can console himself by noting that of the five highest Federal Register page counts, four have occurred on his watch. The other was 79,435 pages under President George W. Bush in 2008.
And the feds aren’t letting up. Mr. Crews reports that there are another 3,305 regulations moving through the pipeline on their way to being imposed. One hundred and ninety-one of those are “economically significant” rules, which are defined as having costs of at least $100 million a year. Keep in mind that the feds routinely low-ball their cost estimates so the public will continue to think regulation is free.
Drawing largely on government statistics, Mr. Crews estimates that the overall cost of regulatory compliance and its economic impact is about $1.9 trillion annually. This means that the burden of complying with federal rules costs roughly the annual GDP of Australia, Canada or Italy.
This regulatory tax makes U.S. businesses less competitive, but it also burdens every American because it is embedded in the prices of all goods and services. Mr. Crews estimates that “U.S. households ‘pay’ $14,974 annually in regulatory hidden tax,” or 23% of the average income of $65,596.