The hidden $1.9 trillion tax

  • 13 May 2019
  • NormanL

One of the Trump administration's more significant achievements has been reducing the regulatory burden on the American economy. But according to a study from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, regulations still cost the nation nearly $2 trillion per year:

The Competitiveness Enterprise Institute said that the $1.9 trillion in regulation translated into a “burden” of $14,600 on every household, an amount so high that if the costs were a country, it would the ninth largest, just ahead of Canada.

Which shows just how big a drag governement continues to be, even in the face of a reform-minded president:

...the costs of existing regulations are enormous, said [Wayne] Crews, vice president for policy and a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

“Despite the progress made on regulatory reform under President Trump, American consumers and businesses are still on the hook for the ‘hidden tax’ of federal regulation,” said Crews. “And that progress is further threatened by President Trump’s own regulatory impulses on issues ranging from antitrust enforcement to trade restrictions to food and drug matters, and more,” he added.

Among the highlights from the study:

In 2018, the Trump administration issued 3,368 rules. That’s more than the 3,281 final rules in 2017, which was the lowest number of regulations coming out of federal agencies in a single year since the National Archives began publishing rule counts in 1976.

The estimated regulatory cost burden is equivalent to more than 40 percent of the level of total federal spending, projected to be $4.4 trillion in 2019.

In 2018, Washington bureaucrats issued regulations at a rate of 11 for every one law Congress enacted. The average for this “Unconstitutionality Index” for the past decade has been 28 to one. The five agencies issuing the most rules are the Departments of Commerce, Defense, Health and Human Services, Transportation, and the Treasury.

President Trump should ignore his regulatory impulses on issues like antitrust, social media and technology, infrastructure, trade restrictions, telecommunications, food and drugs, subsidies, and more. Given divided government and the absence of Congressional action, the president should use executive orders to compel regulatory agencies to: put out an annual regulatory report card, implement a regulatory cost budget to keep his reform agenda on track, and address the misuse of agency guidance documents.

We agree the White House should not look to impose greater, and more costly, regulatory burdens on the economy, particularly if the president wishes to see continued increases in growth (and with that, more jobs and higher wages).