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The Cost of Washington's '10,000 Commandments'

Federal regulation cost Americans $1.9 trillion in 2017, or nearly $15,000 per U.S. household—more than Americans spend on any category in their family budget except for housing. While the Trump administration has made noteworthy progress toward reining in the expansion of new rules, more substantial reform will need to come from Congress in order to significantly reduce this breathtaking government burden.

Each year the Competitive Enterprise Institute publishes the study 10,000 Commandments: An Annual Snapshot of the Federal Regulatory State, and this year we’re celebrating the 25th anniversary of the first edition being published as part of the Journal of Regulation and Social Costs in 1993.

10,000 Commandments surveys the size, scope, and cost of federal regulations, and how they affect American consumers, businesses, and the U.S. economy at large. Written by CEI colleague Wayne Crews, it shines a light on the large and under-appreciated “hidden tax” of America’s regulatory state.

  • Federal regulations and intervention cost Americans $1.9 trillion in 2017.
  • Federal regulation is a hidden tax that amounts to nearly $15,000 per U.S. household each year, more than Americans spend on any category in their family budget except for housing.
  • In 2017, 97 laws were enacted by Congress during the calendar year, while 3,281 rules were issued by agencies. Thus, 34 rules were issued for every law enacted.
  • If it were a country, U.S. federal regulation would be the world’s eighth-largest economy, ranking behind India and ahead of Italy.
  • Many Americans are concerned about their annual tax burden, but total regulatory costs exceeded the $1.88 trillion the IRS collected in both individual and corporate income taxes in 2017.
  • Some 67 federal departments, agencies, and commissions are currently working on 3,209 new regulations in various stages of development.
  • The five most active rulemaking entities– the Departments of Commerce, Defense, Transportation, Treasury, and the Environmental Protection Agency–account for 1,359 rules, or 43 percent of all proposed regulations currently under consideration.
  • The 2017 Federal Register contained 61,308 pages, the lowest count since 1993 and a 36 percent drop from Obama’s 95,894 pages in 2016, the highest level ever recorded.

Please join us in spreading the word about the staggering cost of federal regulation and in celebrating the 25th anniversary of 10,000 Commandments. Read the report here and please share with colleagues and friends. Also, follow the project on Twitter for updates throughout the year.