Strangled By Red Tape

Daniel J. Mitchell
Posted: May 21, 2013 12:01 AM

I’ve shared some nightmare stories of excessive and mindless government regulation.

  1. The Food and Drug Administration raiding a dairy for the terrible crime of selling unpasteurized milk to people who prefer unpasteurized milk.
  2. New York City imposing a $30,000 fine on a small shop because it sold a toy gun.
  3. The pinheads at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission going after Hooters for not having any male waiters in hot pants and tight t-shirts.
  4. Indiana’s Department of Natural Resources is legally attacking a family for rescuing a baby deer.
  5. An unlucky guy who is in legal hot water for releasing some heart-shaped balloons to impress his sweetheart.

But the regulatory burden goes way beyond these odd anecdotes. We’re talking about a huge cost to the economy, and it’s been getting worse for the past 12 years.

Here are some comments on the President’s inauspicious record from the Wall Street Journal.

Team Obama is now the red tape record holder. …pages in the Code of Federal Regulations hit an all-time high of 174,545 in 2012, an increase of more than 21% during the last decade…the cost of federal rules exceeded $1.8 trillion, roughly equal to the GDP of Canada. These costs are embedded in nearly everything Americans buy…at $14,768 per household, meaning that red tape is now the second largest item in the typical family budget after housing. Last year 4,062 regulations were at various stages of implementation inside the Beltway. The government completed work on 1,172, an increase of 16% over the 1,010 that the feds imposed in 2011, which was a 40% increase over 722 in 2010. …the Obama Administration did not break the all-time record of 81,405 pages it set in 2010. But the 78,961 pages it churned out in 2012 mean that the President has posted three of the four greatest paperwork years on record. And to be fair, if Mr. Obama were ever to acknowledge that this is a problem, he could reasonably blame George W. Bush for setting a lousy example. Despite the Obama myth that the Bush years were an era of deregulation, the Bush Administration routinely generated more than 70,000 pages a year in the Federal Register.

If those numbers don’t make you sit up and take notice, how about these ones?

My personal “favorite,” as you can imagine, is the regulatory burden of the income tax.

  1. The number of pages in the tax code.
  2. The number of special tax breaks.
  3. The number of pages in the 1040 instruction booklet.

Today’s Byzantine system is good for tax lawyers, accountants, and bureaucrats, but it’s bad news for America. We need to wipe the slate clean and get rid of this corrupt mess. And you know how to make that happen.