Cost of our growing government - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Cost of our growing government

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Posted: Thursday, August 21, 2008 11:37 pm | Updated: 8:42 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

 “President Bush is the first president to accomplish what?”

“He’s the first to propose a budget that tops $3 trillion. Only six years ago, he was the first to propose one that topped $2 trillion. America is the proud owner of the largest government on Earth.”

“That’s a lot of government.”

“It gets worse. Clyde Wayne Crews of the Competitive Enterprise Institute says that 'the government’s reach extends far beyond the taxes that Washington collects and the deficit spending at which it excels.’ He’s talking about the cost of government regulations. He explains in detail in 'Ten Thousand Commandments: An Annual Snapshot of the Federal Regulatory State.’”

“How do government regulations cost us money?”

“In some cases the federal government imposes new rules and regulations on lower governments, and those governments must raise taxes to cover the cost of compliance.”

“I see — the old bait and switch.”

“And complying with regulations costs private-sector organizations big money, too. They pass the costs along to us through increases in the price of consumer goods.”

“So regulations end up costing us hard money just as taxes do?”

“Precisely. Crew’s report calculates that regulatory compliance costs hit $1.16 trillion in 2007 — an amount almost half the size of the federal budget itself. Federal regulations gobbled up nearly 10 percent of what the U.S. economy produced last year.”

“That’s a lot of gobbling.”

“In 2007, nearly 3,600 new rules and regulations were added — since 1995 when the 'small-government’ Republicans took over Congress, 51,000 rules and regulations have been added!”

“Small government, my eye.”

“The Federal Register, which contains all the rules and regulations, is more than 72,000 pages thick — down a touch from previous years, but still massive nonetheless.”

“Where do all those regulations come from?”

“It all starts with lawmaking. In response to a social or economic need or problem, Congress passes a law. The appropriate regulatory agency then interprets that law and writes regulations that define how the law will be implemented.”

“Can you provide an example?”

“The FDA creates its regulations under the authority of the Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act, the Controlled Substances Act and several other acts created by Congress over the years. Based on the acts, the FDA creates specific regulations that determine what food and drug companies can and cannot do.”

“Do you mean government bureaucrats, not elected officials, are really the ones determining what people and organizations can and cannot do?”

“Yep. There are more than 50 regulatory agencies in the federal government and each is empowered to create and enforce rules and regulations that are backed by the might of federal law. Individuals, and organizations, can be fined or thrown in jail for violating them.”

“That sounds ominous.”

“It can be ominous, which is why regulators must be kept in check. But where regulations are concerned, Crews says nobody is doing that.”

“So how do we keep the regulators in check?”

“Disclosure and accountability. Crews argues that regulatory costs should be accounted for just like federal spending. Cost-benefit analysis should be provided before a regulation is imposed. And when a regulation will cost more than $100 million to comply with, the Congress should be required to vote on the regulation before it becomes binding.”

“Sounds like common sense to me.”

“He also argues that Congress should create a regulatory report card to monitor regulatory agencies. And while they’re at it, Congress should create a bipartisan commission to expose and eliminate harmful regulations. In other words, we should 'end regulation without representation.’”

“That Crews fellow has some really good ideas, but isn’t he overlooking the primary benefit of an incredibly thick Federal Register?”

“What’s that?”

“If the Iranians don’t shape up, we can threaten to drop it on them.”

Tom Purcell is a nationally syndicated columnist. Contact him via e-mail at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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