Much attention this political season has been paid to the issues of taxes and spending – and rightfully so. It’s no secret that we face serious challenges with regard to the deficit, our unwieldy tax code, and the looming implementation of ObamaCare. Yet, many of our government’s most far-reaching and intrusive actions have actually originated behind the scenes and out of the public eye: that is, in its issuance of a flood of federal regulations.
Many Americans would be surprised to learn that, last year alone, the Obama Administration finalized 3,807 new rules and regulations – or about one new regulation every two hours (with thousands more still in the works). To contain all these rules, the government’s printed Federal Register ran more than 81,000 pages last year, which is actually slightly less than the all-time record set by this administration the year before.
And what is the cost of all of these pages of new regulations? And what impact will they have on individuals and employers trying to create good jobs?
While the exact numbers are hard to pin down, one study sponsored by this administration’s own Small Business Administration estimated the annual cost of all federal regulations to be about $1.75 trillion. That staggering figure reflects the costs of conforming to a litany of economic, environmental, labor, and tax rules. Unsurprisingly, the burden is borne especially hard by small businesses and start-up companies, which are less able to deal with the increasingly complex paperwork and legal technicalities.
When small-business owners have to devote scarce time and resources to unnecessary, often duplicative, regulatory compliance, they cannot focus on their true mission: building their businesses and putting people back to work. Indeed, 22 percent of small business owners surveyed last year reported that “complying with government regulations” was the most important problem they faced, nearly twice the number who blamed lack of consumer demand. In a struggling economy, the last thing employers need to worry about is complying with even more requirements laid down by Washington bureaucrats.
Also alarming is the extent to which overregulation has made America less competitive in the global marketplace. International studies show that, between 2005 and 2010, the United States fell from 4th to 10th place in rankings of regulatory effectiveness. As a result, the U.S., which in 2008 ranked the overall most competitive country in the world, has now dropped to 7th place. Such decline means that, without regulatory reform, American jobs will continue to bleed overseas to international rivals, and that we won’t be able to attract the innovation and investment we need to grow our economy.
We’ve already begun to see the effects of many of this administration’s rules: the closure of dozens of coal mines and coal-fired power plants, more and more banks charging extra fees to cover the cost of new regulations, and smaller banks forced to consolidate, sell off, or cut back lending to consumers and small businesses. For certain other rules – such as restrictions on the ability of financial planners to offer investment advice, or regulations governing who can and cannot work on family farms – the administration has been forced to delay or temporarily withdraw them due to huge bipartisan opposition in Congress and across the country. But that doesn’t mean we won’t see those regulations resurface again one day.
It’s no wonder, then, that small businesses are so reluctant to bring new workers on board and that our economy continues to sputter, or that we continue to see businesses pack up and move overseas. One thing this election should be about is the necessity of Washington committing to comprehensively examine our federal regulatory regime and to enact sensible reforms to lessen these hidden burdens on American job-creation.