on Regulation

“The king has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent Swarms of Officers to harass our People and eat out their substance”. U.S. Declaration of Independence, July 4th, 1776

Many of us are familiar with the burdens imposed on individuals and businesses from sales, property and income taxes that shrink our paychecks and impact our family livelihood. However, one of the hidden costs that affect every American is the ever increasing burden placed on us in terms of regulations. Did you know that in the first 6 months of fiscal year 2011, there has been 15 new pieces of regulation imposed on the American people, at a cost of $5.8 billion per year and a $6.5 billion one time implementation cost? According to the Government Accountability Office, 1,827 rulemaking proceedings were completed during the first six months of FY 2011 (between October 1, 2010, and March 31, 2011). Of these, 37 were classified as having an expected economic impact of at least $100 million each per year.  Absolutely no new rules were made to actually reduce regulatory burdens for Americans. Why is our government so bent on limiting our liberty? Or an even better question, why are we so willing to allow it?

Many Americans think the cost of regulations is a business’s problem. Unfortunately, regulations should be considered a form of hidden tax, as the costs of compliance to the increased, and often conflicting, regulations are passed onto the consumer in the form of higher prices and limited product choices.  For instance, basic items used by the average consumer, such as light bulbs, washing machines, hot water heaters, cars, and ovens all cost more because of the government requirements on their energy use, labeling, and standards. Businesses have to hire people just to help wade through the thousands of regulatory red tape that exists already, not to mention the expected new ones yet to be approved  or changed (there are 2,785 more rules waiting in the pipeline for 2011).

Regulations strangle individuals and businesses, removing control over our own lives and that of our families. Even our own town has felt their effects. Federal regulations required our school to raise the price of its lunches because they did not meet a bureaucrat’s average cost, despite the fact that our school runs a profit on the price already set due to local efficiencies. State regulations limit where our school district can spend its $450,000 annual penny sales tax (SAVE) revenues, even if the real need is elsewhere.  SAVE can only be used for things related to school facilities and equipment. While this seems like a good idea on its face, especially for growing school districts, it may not be necessary for school districts that have either stable or declining enrollment or for those districts whose facilities need nothing more than annual maintenance or small upgrades. Our town will receive these tax revenues every year until 2029 or until the legislature changes the rules (which is certainly possible) or enrollment declines (as it is now).  Since our district is limited on where they can spend the money, we are now slated to bond out in order to build a $2.5 million athletic complex, with 80% of the SAVE money each year used to pay off the debt and maintain the facility. So, do you think this is this is the best use of these funds for a school of our size (640 kids)? Or is this simply the consequence of what happens when government forces our districts into a one-size-fits-all approach to decision-making? Personally, I would rather have those funds go towards educational enhancement; fine arts support, legally required special needs aides, or pay for materials so teachers don’t have to pay for things out of their own pockets. You know, as in putting stuff for the actual education of our children first.  But unfortunately, we do not have that luxury. Regulations tie our hands.

The thousands of regulations that impact us every day as individuals, as businesses and as parental educators also make it difficult to remain well informed taxpayers so we can stop the madness. I wonder if the 232 people in our town who voted for maintaining the $150,000 in higher property taxes by extending the PPEL (physical plant and equipment levy), would have still done so if they knew that the penny sales tax noted above was already providing $450,000 every year to the school for the exact same thing? Not likely, as most folks generally don’t like being taxed twice for the same thing. But then again, that ballot to extend PPEL was so long and convoluted that it practically required a law degree to even understand what a vote in favor of it meant. It is almost like our elected representatives use regulations and legalese to keep their citizen sovereigns in the dark on purpose. Why is that, do you think?

“It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is today, can guess what it will be tomorrow. Law is defined to be a rule of action; but how can that be a rule, which is little known, and less fixed?”  #62 of the Federalist Papers, published February 27, 1788


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