The Trump administration has made historic progress, but not on what you might have thought. For decades, even “small government” presidents oversaw huge growth in new regulations, while trying to roll back existing ones. President Trump promised to slash government regulations, and he has done so. But what about new regulations?
In Donald Trump’s first year in office, there were fewer new federal regulations created than in any year since 1976. It may be even longer than that, but the bicentennial year was the first year the National Archives began tracking regulatory rules.
That dramatic decline in the growth of federal regulations is one of the revelations of a new edition of “10,000 Commandments: An Annual Snapshot of the Regulatory State,” put together by Wayne Crews, vice president for policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the report.
CEI, a Washington D.C.-based free market think tank, reports that when it comes to cutting red tape, the current administration has gone well beyond what the president promised to do when he took office. In early 2017, Mr. Trump set a goal of repealing two regulations for every new one added.
Breaking it down in The Wall Street Journal, James Freeman says, “Mr. Crews counts five deregulatory actions for every one regulatory rule-making during the Trump administration.” And the pace of cutting red tape is actually increasing. Freeman goes on to say that Crews found that the deregulation went “from a 4-to-1 rate in the fall of 2017 to a spring 2018 ratio of six deregulatory rules for each regulatory addition.”
One of the most valuable things this report does is make it easy for Americans to fully comprehend how intrusive the regulatory state has become. While it’s relatively easy to see how much the government raises via taxes each year, and how much it spends, determining the true cost of regulation is a complex and daunting task. The real cost of these regulations is truly a “hidden tax.”
And what a hidden tax it is. According to CEI, the total cost of complying with all the federal regulations each year is $1.884 trillion dollars. To put that into perspective, complying with regulations costs more than all the money the federal government collects from individual income taxes ($1.587 trillion) and corporate income taxes ($297 trillion) combined!
Mr. Crews says, “Regulatory costs amount to up to 26 percent of the typical household’s expenditure budget of $57,311. More is ‘spent’ on embedded or hidden regulation in society than on items like health care, food, transportation, entertainment, apparel, services, and savings.”
Based on that, it’s easy to see what Mr. Trump has focused on deregulation to the extent that he has and why it resonates with millions of Americans. But then again, there are still millions of other Americans who believe all of these federal regulations are needed. That despite the enormous burden such regulations place on us, it’s a “cost of doing business” we just have to accept.
It’s not just businesses that see this as a major issue, however. Teachers, doctors, and many others want and need relief, too.
Last year, I wrote about how a national survey of public school teachers found that the percentage of teachers who perceive they have low autonomy in the classroom rose by a whopping 44 percent in a recent eight-year period. Teachers have less autonomy these days because of a myriad of new government regulations aimed at increasing student test scores and making schools more accountable.
And doctors? When 14,000 medical doctors from a wide variety of specialties were surveyed to identify their levels of professional happiness, more than half of them said they feel burned out in their job. That’s a 25 percent increase from just four years prior. The main reason they feel burned out is that they have too many bureaucratic tasks.
This kind of evidence of the damaging effect excessive regulation has on our nation should help members of Congress make the case to their constituents that eliminating unnecessary government red tape needs to continue. It not only saves money, it helps teachers, doctors, and countless others do their jobs better.
Bob Dorigo Jones is senior fellow at the Center for America, creator of the annual Wacky Warning Labels™ Contest, and the bestselling author of "Remove Child Before Folding: The 101 Stupidest, Silliest and Wackiest Warning Labels Ever." His weekly radio commentary, "Let’s Be Fair!" airs on radio stations across the U.S. To read more of his reports, Click Here Now.
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