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OpenMarket: December 2013

  • 2013 Ends with an 80,330-Page Federal Register and 3,659 Final Rules and Regulations

    December 31, 2013 6:01 PM

    The Federal Register wrapped up 2013 with a third-highest count ever, of 80,330 pages. (The published version contains 80,462 pages but I net out blank and skipped pages in my roundup.)

    Among those pages were 3,659 final rules. Even going back to 1995, rules have never been below 3,500 annually, and often exceeded 4,000.

    Another 2,569 proposed rules were issued in 2013 and are under consideration. I round up the year's proposed and final rules on a daily basis right here.

    Of the 3,659 final rules, 718 are expected to have an impact on small businesses.

  • No, Legislative Fixes to Obamacare Weren't Blocked by the GOP

    December 30, 2013 12:01 PM

    As Obamacare's implementation went badly enough that it was mocked by comedians on late-night TV, a search for excuses began. The result was the now commonplace, and false, claim that whatever has gone wrong with Obamacare, it's the GOP's fault, for blocking legislative fixes to the law.

    This political talking point is also used to justify the Obama administration's repeated changes to the healthcare law, and its suspensions and waivers of key statutory provisions (such as anti-fraud rules), even though the Constitution gives only Congress -- not the executive branch -- the power to enact and repeal laws. By making legislative fixes impossible, the argument goes, opponents of Obamacare left Obama with no choice but to administratively fix the law himself (never mind that the Constitution does not allow the president to change or "fix" the law just because Congress declines to do so).

    But the GOP did not block legislative fixes, and neither the Obama administration nor Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., have even offered any legislative fixes. Indeed, Reid has not allowed votes even on legislative changes to Obamacare that are backed not only by all Republican Senators, but also by even many Democratic Senators, as the Washington Post's liberal-leaning fact-checker, Glenn Kessler, recently noted. The Washington Post can't be accused of conservative bias: it endorsed Obama, and hasn't endorsed a Republican for president since 1952.

  • CEI’s Battered Business Bureau: The Week in Regulation

    December 30, 2013 9:54 AM

    74 new regulations, from non-toxic ammunition to shrimp electronic logbooks.

  • A New Year of Regulation: Obama's Record-Setting Federal Register

    December 29, 2013 7:13 PM

    [caption id="attachment_72593" align="alignleft" width="168"]Duly Enacted Laws vs Unaccountable Regulation. The Federal Register runs wild. Duly Enacted Laws vs. Unaccountable Regulation. The Federal Register runs wild. The federal government spends heavily; it also regulates heavily.[/caption]

    The Federal Register is the daily depository of proposed and final rules and regulations, presidential documents, agency notices and such.

    As 2013 draws to a close, President Obama is delivering to America another record-setting Federal Register, this one to be the third highest unless the last day of the year brings an even greater deluge than I expect.

    But there's more: Of the five highest-ever page counts since the Register first appeared in 1936, four now belong to Obama. (George W. Bush's final year, 2008, was once the record-holder at 79,435.)

    Here are the relevant recent annual roundups.

    2008: 79,435 pages (That was George W. Bush; and at the time, the record-setter)
    2009: 68,598 pages (Obama's first year; a big decline that once looked promising...)
    2010: 81,405 pages (Obama sets all time record-high Federal Register page count)
    2011: 81,247 pages (Obama sets second-highest)
    2012: 78,961 pages
    2013: 79,434 pages (with December 31 still to go, 2013 will be the new third-highest)

    As of December 30, 2013, the Federal Register stands at 79,434 pages; the 31st will push it up to third place, behind Obama's two 81,000-plus years.

    The official published bound and PDF versions of the Register are actually a little higher, at 79,566 on the 30th, but eventually the official tally will omit skips and blanks, which I net out already as part of a daily roundup.

    For reference, here's my chart with Federal Register page counts going back to 1936.

  • CEI Podcast for December 26, 2013: The Year in Review

    December 26, 2013 7:32 PM

    President Lawson Bader looks at CEI's challenges and successes during 2013, and looks ahead to 2014, when CEI will celebrate its 30th anniversary.

  • Target Breach -- Are Dodd-Frank "Swipe Fee" Price Controls to Blame?

    December 24, 2013 10:41 AM

    Target wants  you to know it is oh-so-sorry for any inconvenience its data SNAFU (as OpenMarket is a family blog, please look up the acronym) has caused, and as a token of its concern, it offered customers a whooping 10 percent discount this weekend!

    In the meantime, who is cleaning up the mess from Target's breach that has affected as many as 40 million credit and debit card accounts? The nation's banks and credit unions -- big and small. In East Tennessee, for instance, Citizens National Bank canceled and reissued 1,000 credit and debit cards potentially affected, but took the step of calling each customer beforehand.

    This is just the latest incident in which banks and credit unions that issue credit and debit cards have had to step up to the plate after a retailer's customer data is compromised. As noted by Wisconsin Credit Union League CEO Brett A. Thompson, upon a data breach at Michaels craft stores in 2001, the financial institutions “had to determine which states were involved, monitor potentially compromised accounts, manually reduce limits for both ATM and PIN transactions, monitor ATM transactions in the affected states, notify debit card holders of potential fraud on their accounts, issue new debit cards to those whose accounts were compromised and refund money to fraud victims.”

    Yet how do retailers repay banks and credit unions and their own customers? By complaining about how much the have to pay in credit and debit card "swipe fees" and lobbying for price controls, such as the Durbin Amendment of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial "reform," which limited what retailers can be charged for debit cards to 21 cents per swipe (a level a judge has now ruled is not draconian enough in a pending court case!).

  • CEI’s Battered Business Bureau: The Week in Regulation

    December 23, 2013 8:04 AM

    71 new regulations, from charitable donations to video programming for the blind.

  • Volcker Rule Overshoots Wall Street to Hit Utah

    December 19, 2013 10:34 AM

    You might think after the disastrous debut of HealthCare.gov and thousands of insurance cancellations, those who call themselves progressives might just have a little humility about grandiose government schemes with vague terms and objectives.

    Not so, if judged by the adulatory greeting by liberal activists and the establishment media of this month's implementation of a pie-in-the-sky provision of the Dodd-Frank financial "reform," a law that has often been referred to by experts as "Obamacare for banks."

    Like Obamacare, Dodd-Frank was a 2,500-plus page law rammed through the Democrat-controlled Congress in 2010. And like the bureaucrat-written rules implementing Obamacare, the regulations implementing the law are pretty lengthy as well.

    Joint regulations issued last week to implement Dodd-Frank's so-called Volcker Rule were almost 1000 pages, nearly half as long as the law itself. "Changing the Ways of Wall Street" was how a New York Times news piece characterized the rule when it was released last week.

    Yet this week, even the NYT was compelled to report on the regulation hitting a bank that was about as far away from Wall Street as once could get. "Volcker Rule Quickly Hits Utah Bank," reads the headline of an NYT article describing how the Volcker Rule forced Salt Lake City-based Zions Bancorporation to divest a long-held debt security and take a loss of $387 million by doing so. As Bloomberg notes in its piece on the shocking hit to the bank's balance sheet, this "cost is more than Zions earned for any calendar year since 2007."

  • Cataloging Washington’s Hidden Costs, Part 4: The Costs of Poor Regulatory Sausage Making

    December 18, 2013 1:46 PM

    In the first installment of “Cataloging Washington’s Hidden Costs,” the focus was the loss of liberty in our enthusiastic nanny/"Nudge" state.

    So-called "libertarian paternalism" remains unappreciated by unenlightened people like me.

    In Part 2, we looked at unmeasured economic costs.

    Regulators always assume their regulations create net benefits, so in Part 3 we looked at how regulatory benefits can may actually be costs.

    Some costs of government arise from how regulations are enacted and accounted for (or as is actually most often the case, unaccounted for). Here in Part 4 we glance at some of these shortcomings. If lawmaking up on Capitol Hill is compared to sausage making, it gets even worse down here in the agency packing houses.

    Political failure: Regulatory agencies see alleged market failure everywhere, but remain unconcerned with their own status as a static, imperfect man-made institutions.

    Sometimes reality dictates that an agency scale back as new human institutions emerge to discipline risk, uncertainty, market power or you name it. Instead agencies seek solely to expand, such as regulation of net neutrality, low-earth orbit experimentation, and nanotechnology. There is such a thing as pretense of knowledge. It's costly.

  • CEI Podcast for December 18, 2013: The FDA Goes after 23andMe

    December 18, 2013 11:01 AM

    The Food and Drug Administration recently banned 23andMe, a genetic testing service, from marketing its product to consumers. CEI Executive Director and Senior Fellow Gregory Conko thinks the FDA should reverse the ban.

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