Regulations, Regulations Everywhere

Federal regulations cover everything from the size of holes in Swiss cheese to the label text on over-the-counter flatulence medication. There are so many rules, it takes 157,000 pages to list them all. And they cost us $1.187 trillion, according to “Ten Thousand Commandments,” a new study from the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

That entire trillion-plus is off-budget, too. This year’s $3.8 trillion federal budget understates government’s true cost by nearly a third.

The regulatory state grows every year, no matter which party is in power. A new regulation passes every two and a half hours, day and night, seven days a week. 3,503 new rules passed last year alone. Hardly any were repealed. Over 4,000 more are in the pipeline right now. This year’s Federal Register, where all new regulations are announced, is currently on pace to exceed 72,000 pages. And to think this is actually a slight slowdown from the Bush years!

Over the course of an average day, your life will be touched by literally thousands of regulations. The EPA thinks this is wonderful. And for them, it is. The 331 new rules they currently have in the pipeline give them plenty of reason to push for an increase to their $10.5 billion budget and add to their 17,000-strong workforce.

But the EPA needs your help to enlarge its turf. That’s why they are holding a YouTube video contest where entrants show how vital regulations are to everyday life. This is “your opportunity to explain federal rulemaking and motivate others to participate in the rulemaking process. “ The theme is to let your voice be heard.

The contest is essentially an open call for pro-government propaganda, with a grand prize of $2,500 in taxpayers’ money.

This deserves a response. So we at CEI decided to enter a video of our own showing how regulations do not let your voice be heard. They drown it out in a cacophony of commands and controls from the minute you get up in the morning until you go to bed at night.

The alarm clock whose very existence you curse every morning is regulated by the FCC. The sheets and blanket you retreat under into after hitting the snooze button are subject to Consumer Product Safety Commission regulations.

Once you’re out of bed, the EPA and FDA are right there with you as you brush your teeth and take a shower.

Onward to breakfast. Your milk and cereal are regulated by the FDA and the USDA. If any of your food came from abroad – French toast, perhaps? – rest assured that U.S. Customs officials have thoroughly inspected it, and that it complies with rules governing international trade.

The car you drive to work is regulated by the DOT and the EPA. Even walking to work is a regulated activity.

Once you arrive at the office, OSHA, the Department of Labor, and a host of other agencies tell you what you may and may not do. Don’t forget to give the IRS its rightful third of your paycheck – and make sure you’re in compliance with its 71,000 page tax code.

Need to stop at the ATM for some cash to pay for lunch? The Treasury Department, FDIC, Comptroller of the Currency, and more are all looking over your shoulder. Hopefully they don’t see your PIN.

Want to relax after a hard day of work with some friends and a drink? There are regulations for that, too. And I’m not talking about German beer purity laws from 1515.

Still more rules come into play when you get home. The burger you got from McDonald’s for dinner is one of the most heavily regulated pieces of food on the planet. If you end your night by watching a bit of tv before bed, the FCC regulates which words may or may not come out of the actors’ mouths, which is traditionally the scriptwriter’s job. The EPA dictates how much power your tv set may consume.

Rinse. Wash. Repeat.

Turns out doing laundry is also a regulated activity, come to think of it. Are your washer and dryer Energy Star certified?

I hope you’ll take 90 seconds to watch CEI’s video contest entry. If you’re computer savvy, I hope you’ll make a video of your own. So far, ours appears to be the only one saying, “enough.” It’s well past time to let your voice be heard.