Business Roundtable is an association of chief executive officers of leading U.S. companies working to promote a thriving economy and expanded opportunity for all Americans through sound public policy.
Billion-dollar regs, six-toed cats and arroyos
In Business Roundtable's latest CEO Economic Outlook Survey released in December, 35 percent of the CEOs who responded identified regulatory costs as their greatest cost-pressure for the next six months, followed by labor and health care costs. This was the first time that regulation topped the list of concerns; in the fourth quarter of 2011, CEOs ranked material costs first.
Reading through recent headlines, one finds plenty of reasons for the CEOs worries, from big ticket regulations to coal, caprice and cats.
From the Competitive Enterprise Institute's Ten Thousand Commandments website, Jan. 4, 2013, "The Day's Decrees": "Short holiday week yields 28 new final federal rules, 850 pages in the Federal Register."
From Sam Batkins, American Action Forum, "Regulatory Calendar: Administration Releases 2013 Regulatory Plan":
On the Friday afternoon before Christmas, the administration released its delayed 2012 “Unified Agenda” of federal regulations. Rather than publish a spring and fall agenda, the custom every year since 1996, the White House opted for a late afternoon drop during the holidays.
The timing is perhaps less important than the contents of the new report. According to initial projections, the agenda contains $123.2 billion in possible regulatory costs for 2013 and at least 13 million paperwork burden hours.
What’s more, some entries lacked data typically included in the regulatory plan, and outlined in the Regulatory Flexibility Act. For example, new import security filings state $0 in capital and annual costs in the 2012 agenda. However, the 2011 agenda clearly stated costs could reach $7 billion annually. It’s not clear how widespread these omissions are in the 2012 agenda.
Atlanta Journal Constitution, "Georgia Power to close 15 coal, oil units":
Albuquerque Journal editorial, "Editorial: Feds Run Amok With Arroyo Over-Regulation," reporting on the Smiths, who cleared illegally dumped garbage, brush and dead trees from an arroyo on their property:
When Peter Smith tried to explain his actions, the Corps responded “Gallina Arroyo is a water of the United States” — though it is dry year-round save for the rare rain storm — and if the Smiths persisted, they would need to get a permit or face “legal action, including applicable penalties and fines.”
That’s courtesy of a federal government that has posted nearly 6,000 new regulations in the last three months, according to regulations.gov. Think about that the next time you’re tempted to put litter in its place...
[Pacific Legal Foundation] attorney Jennifer Fry says the case could set precedents on whether someone can take the Corps to court, what type of property the Corps has jurisdiction over and what its burden of proof is for declaring that jurisdiction.
From WTVR, Richmond, VA, "USDA claims regulation over famous six-toed cats of Hemingway Home."
[Several years ago a Museum visitor complained to the United States Department of Agriculture that the cats weren’t being cared for properly.
In the most recent appeal, whether or not the cats were taken care of properly wasn’t discussed in the opinion. Rather the judge asked whether or not the cats are part of interstate commerce.
In the case the court believed that the cats were a part of interstate commerce and therefore subject to federal regulation.
The USDA is now demanding that the museum contain the cat in shelters or build higher fencing around the estate, or even hire a night watchman to watch and care for the cats.
We'll give Don Brunnell, president of the Association of Washington Business, the final word. From his Daily Columbian column, "Washington View: Avalanche of regulations hurts U.S. recovery efforts":
In the 1800s, French historian Alexis de Tocqueville warned that too many regulations can sap a nation's entrepreneurial spirit. Overregulation, he noted, "compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd."
Regaining our nation's economic strength will require boundless energy, risk-taking and entrepreneurial spirit. If we are to recover, we cannot continue to suffocate families, employers, schools and hospitals beneath a crushing, endless avalanche of costly regulations.