It’s April, and many American business owners and their employees have one thing on their mind: taxes. HTA has a thing or two to say about taxation, and you’ll be hearing more from us on that subject over the next week. In the meantime, there’s another heavy taxpayer burden that is hitting us hard—the cost of federal regulation. Most of us don’t notice it—after all, we can’t see it on our pay stubs or the company accounting ledger. However, these rules impact our families and businesses much more than we realize.
The level at which our daily lives are regulated by the feds is staggering. The Heritage Foundation’s Foundry, puts it in plain terms: “Anyone who uses electricity, drives a car, has a job, visits a doctor, owns stocks, or patronizes a bank is affected by federal regulation.” Obviously, that list could go on and on.
Heritage just issued a report chronicling the overregulation of society, titled, “Red Tape Rising: Regulation in the Obama Era,” by James L. Gattuso and Stephen A. Keen. It presents a frank and eye-opening picture of where we may be heading over the next few years—especially with a White House that wants to regulate first and ask questions later:
“Americans are endlessly paying taxes–on their income, on their property, on almost anything they purchase. But the heavy burden that the U.S. government places on its citizens does not stop there. It continues with a slew of hidden taxes imposed by an ever-larger number of government regulations. These regulatory taxes do not appear on any balance sheet, yet cost Americans about $1 trillion every year. The regulatory burden on Americans continued to surge during 2009, with record increases in costs thanks to both the Bush and Obama Administrations. Given ongoing regulatory initiatives at several agencies, it is very likely that this surge will continue.” (Emphasis ours)
The report tracks the trend of increasing federal requirements by pointing out the number of new rules annually, and their cumulative cost. It also illustrates just how weighed down we are with bureaucratic burden by pointing out that the federal regulatory code surpassed 163,000 pages in 2009!
So, how do we stop this regulatory juggernaut? Well, it’s complicated. After all, one key way an administration exerts its power and secures its legacy is through rulemaking. Gattuso and Keen list ideas for keeping excessive regulation in check, including preserving the influence of the little-known—but extremely powerful— Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA)—an idea that ABC has strongly supported. The authors also pose a couple novel ideas like establishing a Congressional Regulation Office for additional oversight (Are you as surprised as I am that this does not already exist?), and slapping expiration dates on new regulations, to ensure that obsolete rules are easier to kick to the curb when they’ve outlived their purpose.
Sounds like a good start, but what can we do? Vote—plain and simple. We’ll need leaders in Washington dedicated to cutting costly red tape and ending the regulatory onslaught, and we can make that happen. While our focus for the next week will be on our taxes, let’s make sure we remember this receipt in November.