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EDITORIAL: A New Year’s resolution for Capitol Hill

America needs to go on a red-tape diet

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Uncle Sam ended the year having saddled Americans with another 81,836 pages of regulations. No issue was too small or insignificant to escape attention in the federal government's final week of pronouncements.

On Thursday, The Department of Homeland Security announced drawbridge operation rules for the Hanover Street bridge in Baltimore. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration granted one Thomas A. Jefferson a permit "to conduct research on nine cetacean species off the California coast." A "safety zone" was declared for a New Year's Eve fireworks display on the Sacramento River.

When Ben Franklin famously suggested that the birth of the nation ought to be celebrated with fireworks, he didn't mention any need to seek prior approval from a central government that also insists on registering the identity of individuals with an interest in studying dolphins along the California coast.

The ever-expanding tome of mindless rules and restrictions known as the Federal Register serves as the most obvious measure of how overgrown Washington has become. The annual output of 80,000 pages of red tape comes at a tremendous price. It takes $1 trillion in borrowing to keep the supersized bureaucracy open. But that's not all.

According to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, keeping up with all of the latest federal dictates costs American businesses $1.75 trillion. Every dollar spent filling out pointless paperwork and every hour spent attempting to decipher arcane laws reduces the ability of businesses to expand operations and hire new employees.

That's why the greatest gift Congress and the Obama administration could give to the economy would be a regulatory moratorium. Even better, the House and Senate ought to resolve to pass no new laws, or at least to enact nothing new without first repealing a statute of equivalent burden.

America has never been more coddled, overseen and micromanaged by its political class. It's no coincidence that the country is also facing its worst economic crisis. Enough is enough. Let's send the employees at the Government Printing Office - where the Federal Register is printed - home for the remainder of 2012.

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