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Red tape rising

Everyone has heard of the figurative “red tape” before. It’s something everyone dreads. You may have heard someone say something like, “There is just a lot of red tape on that issue that keeps us from doing (fill in the blank).” 

And usually, there is. There’s a mountain of paperwork that hinders small businesses and a lot of money wasted on regulations that aren’t always useful.

However, the White House and several other administrative agencies have done a particularly stellar job at taking regulatory action across the board over the past seven and a half years. 

In fact, 20,642 new regulations have been added under President Obama, with an estimated $22 billion per year in additional regulatory costs having been implemented in 2015 alone. Some of the most significant include the Affordable Care Act, the Clean Power Plan and the net neutrality rules. 

A close look at President George W. Bush’s tenure reveals that Obama’s predecessor was not immune to implementing burdensome regulations. When you add the regulations of Obama and Bush together, it equals nearly $176 billion in regulatory expenses. Both administrations have claimed that some of the regulatory measures actually decreased the burden on the American people, and while that may be true, the assistance it provides only amounts to about three percent of the burden set forth in the same time period.

Essentially, federal regulations cost an estimated $1.89 trillion in 2015, which if measured as an economy, would come out as the ninth largest in the world. The amount of regulatory burden placed on American taxpayers exceeds the amount of money that the IRS will collect between corporate and individual income taxes this year. 

There’s quite a few numbers here, but in the end, how is any of this relevant and why should we be concerned? 

First and foremost, these policies affect both the large corporations in New York City and the small businesses right here in Clemson. 

It’s not just the amount of money that it costs to comply with the regulations, but also the cost of the manpower needed to ensure compliance when new rules are introduced and enforce the penalties if a business does not comply. It was recently reported that one manufacturer was hit with a $15,000 fine for missing one signature line on a Treasury Department form. 

Once these regulations are passed, very rarely does any organization ever go back and review them in order to ensure they stay updated or are removed when no longer relevant. Additionally, hard-earned taxpayer money is being wasted on the enforcement of these regulations. 

The federal government spent $57 billion (up 83 percent from 2001) to enforce these policies, and all of the regulatory agencies combined employ nearly 277,000 people. 

While it has been the work of government bureaucrats on both sides of the aisle that has led up to this point, congressional Republicans recently introduced a plan to help pare down these rules and procedures so that Main Street businesses can finally dig their way out from under mountains of paperwork. 

One proposed idea is to require Congress to approve any rule that would have an overall cost of more than $100 million annually, keeping non-elected officials from implementing policies without represented approval. Another recommendation is to force agencies to provide public access to information on a regulation’s cost and requirements before it’s passed. 

That ensures that more can be done to keep a watch on what’s being passed in the pipeline of more than 3,000 regulations that are being drafted by nearly 60 agencies as you read this article. 

Overall, it’s important to consider this issue because America has to champion small businesses and the innovative vitality they provide to the economy. 

The Republican recommendations are a good start to peeling back the layers on an issue that has been prevalent for far too long, but that’s not the end. Of course, it’s not feasible to let industries and entities go on without oversight. 

However, there exists a substantial difference in playing regulatory watchdog and playing paperwork police. The White House, regardless of the party in control, and federal agencies across the board should not expect to bypass the people’s elected representatives in governing the country.

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