Our rabid regulatory nation
By Ralph R. Reiland
Published: Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Ask a classroom of high school seniors what they want to be when they grow up, and it's a safe bet no one will say they want to be a “bureaucrat.”
I'd say it's also pretty certain that none of these seniors would say they aspire to become a central planner, writing regulations that have the effect of doing everything from knocking a preschooler's lemonade stand out of business to controlling, via federal flow restrictors, how much water we're allowed to use per minute during a shower.
New shower head flow rates, according to federal regulations, can't be more than 2.5 gallons per minute at a water pressure of 80 pounds per square inch.
But there's a loophole. The planners didn't deal with the length of a shower. Let's say the regulated citizens compensate for less water per minute by extending their shower time. Then the next fix could be federal timers in the shower heads — or webcams that are monitored to see if everyone is rubbing and scrubbing with sufficient speediness.
I also wouldn't expect any senior to say his goal is to occupy an IRS cubicle for decades in order to slog around adding thousands of new words to an already severely bloated tax code.
There is, nevertheless, no shortage of new people arriving in Washington to do just that, even though we obviously already have too many words in the tax code, too much capital being drained from the private sector via taxes and too many rules, mandates and regulations that are a strong deterrent to economic growth and job creation.
The IRS code and associated tax regulations “passed the nine-million-word mark back in 2005,” up 19 percent in verbiage over a decade earlier, reported Niall Ferguson, Harvard history professor, Oxford University senior research fellow and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford.
Similarly, the Federal Register, the official directory of regulations, “today runs to 78,961 pages,” explained Ferguson in a June 19 Wall Street Journal commentary. “Back in 1986, it was 44,812 pages.”
Additionally, “4,062 new regulations” are in various stages of implementation, with “224 deemed to be ‘economically significant,'” having economic impacts in excess of $100 million, reported Ferguson.
Coming next are the job-killing mandates in ObamaCare and the EPA's new Ozone Rule, which will hit U.S. manufacturers with an estimated $90 billion in yearly costs.
In a 2011 CNNMoney interview, Wesley Keegan, the young owner of TailGate Beer, explained how all this impacts Main Street.
“The bottom line,” Keegan said, “is that it's easier to sell pot in this country than beer.”
Keegan, 27, a former bartender and ocean lifeguard, started brewing beer as a hobby and turned it into a business in 2007.
He pointed to the stumbling blocks that the government puts in the path of entrepreneurship and job creation.
“Every state has different regulations,” he said. “And we have to keep track of all of them. And that's not so easy because every day there are changes and announcements. Then there are taxes. We are taxed when we brew, when we ship, when we import and when we export to different states.”
And if Keegan doesn't jump in the prescribed manner through all the multiplying and changing government hoops?
“(I)f we have a violation, we really pay for it,” he explained. “Some of the fines are up to six figures.”
Ralph R. Reiland is an associate professor of economics at Robert Morris University and a local restaurateur (email@example.com).
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