Recent headlines out of Washington paint a depressing picture. Of course, this isn't anything new, just different names and reversed roles. However there is something different going on these days and Americans ought to look beyond the salacious headlines. If they do, they'll see swamp water beginning to swirl down the drain, as the Trump administration and Congress are making historic progress against decades of job-killing regulations.
The Code of Federal Regulations is currently well more than 175,000 pages long. To put that in perspective, if the pages in the CFR were laid out end-to-end, it would stretch nearly 25 miles. Just imagine how long it would take to read each page of legalese.
Since the 1930s, thousands of new rules and pages have been added to the Code of Federal Regulation from the annual Federal Registers. These documents contain all sorts of notices, rules, and other announcements from the endless list of three-letter agencies in the federal government, but the Federal Register is generally regarded as a good barometer for how busy regulators have been creating new rules to micromanage Americans' lives and businesses each year.
Last year, the Federal Register was a staggering 95,894 pages, the longest it has ever been. In fact, the Obama administration holds the record for the top four page counts and seven out of the top 10, with the remaining three belonging to President George W. Bush. In short, the pace of new regulations has been accelerating.
It is counterintuitive that as Americans live longer and safer lives the pace and number of regulations would increase, but I digress.
This year however, the change is dramatic. The Federal Register, which also includes notices of deregulation, currently stands at just more than 20,000 pages—putting it on track for 62,000 pages by year's end. While still a staggering amount of needless red tape, that page count stands in stark contrast to the historical trend.
The last time it was that low? Twenty-five years ago in 1992. We've had balanced budgets more recently than that!
The Trump administration and Congress are on an unprecedented, and sorely needed, deregulatory push. In five months, Congress has invoked the Congressional Review Act more than a dozen times to eliminate rules passed in the twilight of the Obama administration. The CRA had been used only once by all previous Congresses.
The Trump administration continues to do its part by freezing regulations, tying new rules to the elimination of existing ones, and ordering all agencies to take a good hard look at the stack of rules they've imposed on the American people and come up with a way to shorten and lighten it.
Of course, some are decrying these efforts as reckless. I'd challenge them to look at our founding documents. The Constitution makes clear that the power to legislate resides with Congress and the power to adjudicate rests with the courts. Yet we have dozens of agencies that have been acting like legislators, judges, juries, and executioners for decades with little to no oversight.
Look at the blighted cities of the Midwest and Appalachia, where once-thriving industries have been shuttered and millions of workers have been displaced not by the market, but by diktats from Washington.
Look to your imagination. Imagine what world-changing inventions, businesses, and entrepreneurs have never even had the chance because they simply couldn't afford to climb America's mountain of regulations while at the same time pursue their dreams and ideas.
Economic studies peg the cumulative cost of federal regulation alone at nearly $2 trillion every year. If the amount of money we spend complying with Washington's rules were its own national economy, it would be the ninth-largest economy in the world, just below India and above Russia. And none of this includes the forgone value of entrepreneurs, inventions, and businesses smothered before their inception.
There's still a long way to go. Congress needs to reassert its legislative authority and stop delegating so much power to the executive branch. Thousands of outdated, duplicative, and burdensome regulations still await review. However, for the first time in a long time, there is actual evidence to hope for beneficial change in Washington.
Adam Brandon (@adam_brandon) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is president and CEO of FreedomWorks.
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