U.S. Regulatory Costs Are World's No. 10 Economy
After years of rapid growth during the Obama administration, the cost of federal regulations is now bigger than the entire economies of all but nine countries in the world.
That's according to the latest annual report on the regulatory state issued by the free-market Competitive Enterprise Institute, titled "Ten Thousand Commandments."
Compiling reports of compliance costs from various government agencies and outside sources, author Clyde Wayne Crews found that the "regulation tax" imposed on the economy now tops $1.86 trillion.
By comparison, Canada's entire GDP is $1.82 trillion. India's is $1.84 trillion.
The problem, Crews notes, is that the combined cost of this "tax" never shows up anywhere in the federal budget — or any other official report — even though it is now bigger than individual and corporate income taxes combined.
As a result, "policymakers find it easier to impose regulatory costs relative to undertaking more government spending," Crews notes, "because of the lack of disclosure and accountability for regulatory costs."
Among the findings in the report:
On a per-household basis, federal regulatory costs average $14,974, which is more than the typical household spends on just about anything else.
When regulatory costs are combined with federal spending, Washington's share of the economy rises to an eye-popping 31%.
There are currently more than 3,000 rules in various stages of implementation at 63 federal agencies; 191 of the rules are "economically significant," which means that they will impose more than $100 million in annual compliance costs.
Nearly 670 of these rules will affect small businesses.
Last year, regulators issued 3,659 rules. That's equal to one new rule every 2 1/2 hours of every day, or nearly two federal rules issued every business hour.
In 2013, there were 51 regulatory rules written for each law passed, which the CEI says is a measure of how much power Congress has delegated to unelected regulators. This "Unconstitutionality Index" — as the CEI calls it — averaged 34 under Obama, nearly twice the average rate during the George W. Bush years.
The Obama administration has had 42% more "economically significant" rules in the pipeline, on average, each year than the Bush administration.
At the same time, Obama's regulators have let state and local governments increasingly off the hook, putting fewer regulations affecting them in the pipeline than during the Bush or Clinton years.
The CEI report includes various recommendations for making regulatory costs more transparent and readily available to the public.