Weekly Columns

Regulation Overload

Jan 22 2013

Regulations can protect consumers, borrowers and the environment. They can ensure that Americans are safeguarded from unscrupulous operators and polluters who try to game the system at our expense. However, as well-intentioned as some regulations may be, they often have unintended consequences and, in some cases, regulatory agencies go beyond the authority provided in law when drafting them. 

At what point, however, does an administration’s penchant for issuing rules become an abuse of the regulatory process? Do we really need half a trillion dollars’ worth of them over the course of one presidential term? It seems rather excessive, don’t you think? 

That huge dollar amount actually reflects the economic tally for regulations the Obama administration issued during its first four years. According to a new report, these regulations rang up at a cost of over $518 billion, including $216 billion in rules and $21 billion in regulatory proposals from the administration in 2012 alone. 

The report cites the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as last year’s biggest offender. The agency issued $172 billion worth of rules in 2012, many of which targeted family farmers and the energy sector. Those costs get passed along to every single one of us. The Senate Environment & Public Works Committee has oversight power over the EPA. As a member of the committee, I intend to work with my colleagues to roll back this aggressive expansion of power and keep the EPA in check. 

But it’s not just the EPA that is abusing the regulatory process. Health care providers (due to the President’s health care reform law) and community banks (due to the Dodd-Frank law) were also hit hard with regulations last year with many more additional rules in the works. Across the board, these excessive regulations play a large role in perpetuating the economic uncertainty that has kept small businesses from hiring. 

Unfortunately, just a few weeks into 2013 and the Obama administration is already churning out page after page of proposed regulations. Since the start of the year, the administration has posted 972 new rules, proposed rules and notices to regulations.gov at the time this piece was written. It likely has grown exponentially since then. 

In this case, government isn’t solving the problem, it is the problem. The more burdens it places on small businesses, the longer our economic recovery will be stuck in a holding pattern. Business owners simply will not hire under these conditions. Businesses, both big and small, need to plan ahead to succeed. With so many proposed rules floating around, it is nearly impossible to plan with any degree of confidence. If business owners don’t know what their tax rates and energy, healthcare and compliance costs are going to be, then the last thing they are going to do is hire a bunch of people.

We need to focus on restoring commonsense to the regulatory process during the 113th Congress. I am committed to working with my colleagues to correct the mistakes caused by the Obama Administration’s heavy-handed overregulation.