Anyone wondering why the U.S. economy seems to be stuck in neutral — or, in some sectors, even in reverse — need look no further than the latest American Action Forum (AAF) study to find one big reason why: federal regulations. According to the study, last year Washington imposed an additional $112 billion in regulatory costs and 157.9 million paperwork burden hours on Americans. That works out to $446 million and 629,000 paperwork hours for each day the federal government was open.
“From 2009 to 2013, regulators have published $494 billion in final rules,” penned AAF’s director of regulatory policy, Sam Batkins. “This figure dwarfs the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from countries like Sweden, Peru, and Ireland.”
In 2013, 80,224 pages of regulations were added to the Federal Register, a 3.8-percent increase over 2012. The number of “economically significant” regulations increased by 25 percent, and the number of rules imposing “unfunded mandates on states or private entities” grew by 38 percent, Batkins found.
“Overall regulatory activity was up over 2012,” Batkins told CNSNews.com, in part because “the White House delayed some controversial rules until after the 2012 election.”
In fact, one of the most controversial rules, an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) emissions standard that would force a two-thirds reduction in the amount of sulfur in gasoline, was “singled-out … for delay in 2012, as staffers disclosed reservations about the cost and likelihood of higher gas prices,” Batkins wrote. The EPA estimated that the rule would impose an additional $3.4 billion in costs and over 160,000 paperwork hours annually, with a total cost exceeding $35 billion. According to the Institute for Energy Research, consulting company Baker & O’Brien found that the rule “would impose upfront compliance costs of almost $10 billion on the refinery industry, resulting in a permanent increase in refining costs of 6 to 9 cents per gallon of gasoline. It will also increase the cost of vehicles. Thus, the proposed … standard would increase both the price of gasoline and the cost of buying a new car.”
The second most costly regulation of 2013 was the Department of Energy’s (DOE) proposed standards for commercial and industrial electric motors. That rule alone, Batkins argued, “would add $11.7 billion in long-term costs ($462 million annualized) and force some small manufacturers to spend 188 percent of their annual capital expenditures on compliance.” Many would surely go out of business.
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