Out Now: The 2020 Edition of Ten Thousand Commandments

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The 2020 edition of Ten Thousand Commandments is out. Wayne Crews’s annual report gives a big picture view of the federal regulatory state. There has long been annual a federal budget for spending, but government regulations have no equivalent. Ten Thousand Commandments attempts to fill that gap until policy makers decide to follow basic transparency guidelines. Among the highlights:

  • In total, federal regulations cost an estimated $1.9 trillion per year. This “hidden tax” is greater than corporate and personal income tax revenues combined. If the cost of federal regulations were a country, it would be the eighth largest, behind Italy and ahead of Brazil. This does not include state and local burdens.
  • That is equivalent to $14,455 per household That amounts to 18 percent of the average pre-tax household budget and exceeds every other item except housing.
  • Agencies published 2,964 new final regulations in 2019. This is the first year with fewer than 3,000 new regulations since records began being kept in 1976. However, agencies also listed 3,752 upcoming rules in the most recent twice-yearly Unified Agenda.
  • When regulatory outlays are combined with 2019’s $4.447 trillion in spending, the federal government alone takes up 30 percent of the economy.
  • Congress passed 105 bills in 2019, compared to 2,964 regulations. This means federal agencies issued 28 regulations for every bill passed. This “Unconstitutionality Index” almost exactly matches the historical average for the last decade.
  • The five agencies issuing the most rules are the Departments of Commerce, Defense, Health and Human Services, Transportation, and the Treasury.
  • Addressing the coronavirus crisis and the upcoming economic recovery will take more than spending. Regulatory reform is a crucial part of the agenda. Congress, agencies, and the president need to continue waiving regulations that are blocking access to health care and medical supplies and are preventing businesses from getting back on their feet once safety allows. They must also enact systemic reforms to prevent today’s regulatory bloat from hindering future crisis responses. President Trump must also ignore his regulatory impulses on issues like antitrust, social media and technology, infrastructure, trade restrictions, telecommunications, food and drugs, subsidies, and more.
  • 199,471 Federal Register pages in Trump’s first three years. That averages 66,490 pages per year. President Obama averaged 80,420 pages per year.

These numbers are especially alarming during the coronavirus pandemic. Some of those rules prevent sick people from accessing health care, make schooling more difficult, prevent people from working from home, and make it harder for small businesses to adapt to the new circumstances or find the funding they need to stay afloat. Ten Thousand Commandments, if anything, puts into stark relief the points CEI’s #NeverNeeded campaign is making.

The full report is here. For a shorter version, see the news release. Further reform ideas are at neverneeded.cei.org.