The Nonpartisan Regulatory State

To believe Democratic politicians, the U.S. has entered an era of near-laissez faire economics.  Regulatory agencies have faded away.  Uncle Sam has gone on vacation.  The tax authorities have closed shop.  Evil businessmen are running rampant.

Actually, regulation has been increasing despite Republican dominance in Washington.  Reports the Wall Street Journal:

Just last week, the Environmental Protection Agency announced new ozone rules for the first time in 10 years. As the EPA noted, “ozone is measured out to three decimal places.” The new city limits for ozone from cars, power plants, factories and other “man-made sources” is 0.075 parts per million instead of the old 0.080 ppm. The cost in lost economic output from this new more stringent rule is estimated at $6 billion a year, and many communities are still struggling to meet the demands of the old rule. Whether the health benefits of the new rule will exceed these costs is unknown because Congress refuses to allow a cost-benefit analysis for air quality regulations.

Last year Bush rule-making agencies imposed $11 billion of net new economy-wide regulatory costs (mostly in the environmental area). The cost of new regulations has increased every year on Mr. Bush’s watch, but last year was by far the highest. What’s more, a new Heritage Foundation report concludes that the Administration’s agency czars are in a “clear the decks” mode of promulgating rules during the Presidency’s final 10 months.

With the economy stalling and capital markets looking like sludge, this red-tape roll out makes no sense. The Small Business Administration calculates that the total cost in 2005 of complying with 145,000 pages of federal rules and procedures was $1.1 trillion. This is the rough economic equivalent of imposing a second federal income tax on the economy.

George Mason University’s Mercatus Center reveals in a soon-to-be released study that every measure of regulatory activity is up in recent years — agency staffing, budgets, pages of rule making and compliance costs. Those numbers contradict the stream of attacks against this Administration for “weakening” federal consumer and environmental protections.

Of course, none of this should come as a surprise.  CEI’s own Wayne Crews has been regularly reporting on regulatory growth in America. And the picture just keeps getting uglier.

When will we have an honest debate over regulation in America?  Our problems keep getting worse as our regulations keep getting more stringent.  Maybe there’s a lesson here!