The Coming Regulatory Black Hole
Thousands of new proposed regulations, delayed by the election, will be issued over the next few months.
December 14, 2012 - 12:00 am
One example is the inexplicable new regulations, courtesy of Obamacare, governing vending machines and restaurants, ordering them to display nutritional information. These regulations were expanded to include grocery stores and virtually all food service chains. The estimated cost: $1.1 billion with 1.4 million additional paperwork burden hours. These regulations have been “under review” for months but were delayed by the White House.
Another example comes from the American Action Forum:
[A] proposed rule requiring “Sound for Hybrid and Electric Vehicles” has a statutory deadline of July 5, 2012, but the regulation remains at the White House. There is no indication how much ‘artificial vehicle sound’ devices will cost automobile manufacturers. The public won’t know until the administration publishes the proposal.
Typically, a new regulation remains at the White House under review for 90 days. Some of the regs that will be published in the next couple of months have been tied up by the administration for a year or more. The reason is obvious, as the National Association of Manufacturers showed in a report on new EPA regulations in the pipeline:
The report, issued in late November, said compliance costs for six major EPA regulations — including rules limiting air and water pollution from coal- and oil-fired power plants — could total up to $111 billion by government estimates and up to $138 billion by industry estimates. Construction costs could total $500 billion, it said.
Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the manufacturing group, warned of a “devastating ripple effect” that could be felt throughout the U.S. economy if federal rules are not relaxed or delayed. Some manufacturers are likely to “close their doors for good” because of EPA rules, Timmons said.
One would imagine a lot of those lost jobs would have been in Ohio — something the Obama campaign just couldn’t countenance. Better to have those Ohio voters lose their jobs once the president was safe and sound back in the White House than lose them before the election and blame Obama for their suffering.
You have no doubt heard the term “unfettered capitalism” bandied about by the left over the last several years. This refers to the left’s idea that American businessmen are a bunch of robber barons who practice a kind of predatory capitalism not seen since the gilded age. Unrestrained by government, businesses cheat consumers, steal from grandma, rape the land, poison our water, pollute our air, deny opportunities to minorities because they’re racist pigs, and gleefully place workers in danger of their lives to make an extra buck.
It’s a cute bedtime story, but anyone who uses the term “unfettered capitalism” to describe how American business operates in the 21st century is an ignoramus. The Federal Register, published every week day and containing all proposed rules and regulations — most of which govern business activities — was 81,000 pages in 2011 alone. Many of those rules were never adopted, but the scope of business activity regulated by as many as 60 federal agencies and departments is breathtaking. According to the Heritage Foundation, as of 2008 there were 145,000 pages of regulations — the overwhelming majority of which affect American business.
Add to that state and local rules and one wonders how anyone could be so stupid as to charge that the problem with America is “unfettered capitalism.”
Surely there are many of those regulations that are needed and necessary. Businesses are run by human beings, and there are some shady characters who think nothing of dumping toxic waste, forcing employees to work in unsafe conditions, or of surreptitiously polluting air and water. Some regulations are burdensome but, as the Heritage article points out, many regulations actually increase competitiveness, protect property rights, and keep us safe from terrorists.
But few of these regulations that the Obama administration has sat on for months, waiting for the campaign to end, meet the “necessary” criteria. In fact, the reason that President Obama restrained his eager-beaver agencies was because of their detrimental effect on the economy.
This is not a regulatory cliff we’re approaching. It is a regulatory black hole where jobs and profit are sucked over the event horizon and there is no hope of escape.