Ten Thousand Costly Regulatory Commandments

The Competitive Enterprise Institute has released its Ten Thousand Commandments 2020 report, describing the costly burden of the federal regulations imposed on all Americans and their businesses.

Report author Clyde Wayne Crews highlights several of the 2020 report’s findings. Here are the top three takeaways:

  • The aggregate cost of federal regulation remains more than $1.9 TRILLION annually – and that is a conservative estimate based on publicly available data from government, academia, and industry and the inherent unknowability of such costs.
  • The cost of federal regulation to each U.S. household exceeds $14,000 annually, on average. For perspective, that equals about one-fifth (18 percent) of the average pre-tax household budget and is the second-biggest budget item after housing.
  • The $1.9 trillion regulatory burden is almost equivalent to the $2.5 trillion COVID-19 Phase 3 stimulus bill Congress passed in April 2020. COVID stimulus cost taxpayers $2.5 trillion, but regulations impose a more hidden cost of $1.9 trillion – ouch!

Crews also recognizes the Trump administration fell short of goal of eliminating two regulations for every new one added to the Federal Register in the U.S. government’s 2019 fiscal year.

For the first time, in fiscal year 2019, the administration did not meet the one-in, two-out goals as prescribed by Executive Order 13771. Instead of “one-in, two-out,” the ratio was 1.7 to one.

Because the report focuses on what happened with regulations in 2019, it doesn’t consider what we’ve learned about the value of federal regulations from the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the past few months, Americans have seen federal regulations work to undercut the their ability to respond to the threat of the pandemic over and over again. Whether it be pharmaceutical companies and research laboratories trying to develop and deliver tests to detect infections, doctors seeking to provide consultations through telehealth technologies, or food processors seeking to sell meat to consumers.

President Trump’s typical response to these artificially created problems has been to break the bureaucracy’s regulatory chains, using executive orders to override them. But since so many of these regulations have either been contradictory or have proven to be serious impediments to the response to the current crisis, it has raised questions of whether they serve a legitimate purpose in the first place.

In fact, CEI has set up a special web site and a Twitter hashtag for Americans to nominate regulations for consideration to be eliminated because they were #NeverNeeded.

We already knew regulations of questionable value were costly. During the current pandemic, they’ve also proven to be deadly in needlessly delaying an effective response and in imposing needless costs on Americans. It’s time the Federal Register was purged of them.

Craig Eyermann is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute.
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