Voters in November set the stage for gridlock. They chose big-spending Democrats to run the White House and Senate while keeping parsimonious Republicans in charge of the House. That dysfunctional arrangement ensures President Obama won’t be able to get away with passing all the bills he needs to fulfill his agenda. He showed in his first term a willingness to use regulatory agencies to enact by rule what he couldn’t by law. As a recent Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) report found, the renewed emphasis on red tape in the second term will cost Americans dearly.
Every time some bureaucrat comes up with a rule, those who have to comply with its requirements must pay a price in time, energy and resources. On the low end of the scale, businesses must spend an estimated $193 million to abide by the mandates laid down by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the agency best known for setting Christmas trees on fire and banning lawn darts. Next up on the scale, useless government departments like Commerce force businesses to spend 51 million hours filling out paperwork. By CEI’s estimate, that undertaking wastes about $1.8 billion in private-sector resources. Larger departments like Transportation impose $61.8 billion in costs through rules that dictate how automobiles, trains and airplanes are designed. Manufacturers must expend massive resources to develop new technologies to appease Washington. Individuals also pay the price, as the latest fuel-economy rules raise the average cost of an automobile by $1,800.
None of this approaches the impact of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), by far the most expensive government operation. With a cost of $353 billion, the agency’s onerous regulatory burdens consume the equivalent of all the wealth generated each year in Virginia’s private-sector economy. It’s as if, instead of serving the public, the commonwealth’s economic effort were dedicated to serving the EPA administrator. An entire state’s gross domestic product could be added to the national economy if the EPA faded away.
We’re moving in the opposite direction. On Mr. Obama’s watch, the EPA has come up with 2,071 new rules, according to the Federal Register. One of the latest proposals is meant to put coal-fired power plants out of business and will cost $9.6 billion. Another regulation, the “regional haze” rule, applies for now only to Arizona, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Wyoming. It’s a $450 million burden on coal and cement plants. That’s a lot of money considering the EPA can’t do anything about the more common source of haze: forest fires.
The EPA isn’t known for objectively evaluating the cost and benefits of its proposals. That’s another reason the country can’t afford to keep this bloated bureaucracy. Each of the 50 states already has its own department dedicated to preserving natural resources. America can’t afford the superfluous one in Washington.
The Washington Times