Ten Thousand Commandments is the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s annual survey of 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 Vice President for Policy Wayne Crews, it shines a light on the large and under-appreciated “hidden tax” of America’s regulatory state. The current edition marks 25 years since the first report was published as part of the Journal of Regulation and Social Costs in 1993.
Federal government spending, deficits, and the national debt are staggering, but so is the impact of federal regulations. Unfortunately, the financial impact of these rules gets little attention in policy debates because, unlike spending and taxes, they are unbudgeted and difficult to quantify.
By making Washington’s rules and mandates more comprehensible, Crews underscores the need for more review, transparency, and accountability for new and existing federal regulations.
The 2018 report charts new territory as it presents the initial results of President Trump’s efforts to cut red tape via executive order, the most aggressive effort at regulatory reform in over a quarter century. Trump has slowed the momentum of the Obama years and implemented policies to incentivize further restraint, but the long-term agenda of the government’s executive agencies could easily stray back toward bureaucratic overreach without permanent reform by Congress.
Highlights from the 2018 edition include:
- 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.
Note: The information in this report is based on a compilation of best available government and private data.