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Letters to the Editor

January 8, 2009

How much money does government regulation cost?

The issue of government regulation is just as important as taxation. The regulatory state has always been a factor in American government, but since the Progressive era of the early twentieth century, the regulatory state has grown tremendously.

As government grows, so do taxation and regulation, and all three can be devastating to a free economy. Although regulation is necessary to uphold the rule of law, too much regulation can stifle business and cost taxpayers, individuals, and business owners countless hard-earned dollars. The Competitive Enterprise Institute’s annual report on regulation, Ten Thousand Commandments: An Annual Snapshot of the Federal Regulatory State, provides citizens with a sound idea of how much: “federal regulations cost Americans almost as much as the income tax and more than 40 percent of all federal spending.” The federal budget has already hit the trillion mark ($2 trillion in 2002) and is projected to be at least $3 trillion in fiscal year 2009.

Clyde Crews Jr., the author of the report, noted that the “government’s reach extends well beyond taxes that Washington collects and the deficit spending at which it excels.” “Federal environmental, safety and health, and economic regulations cost hundreds of billions of dollars every year over and above the costs of official federal outlays,” stated Crews.

Some alarming aspects of the report include:

• The Weidenbaum Center at Washington University in St. Louis and the Mercatus Center at George Mason University in Virginia jointly estimate that agencies spent $42 billion to administer and police the 2007 regulatory enterprise. Adding the $1.157 trillion in off-budget compliance costs brings the total regulatory burden to $1.201 trillion.  

• Regulatory costs of $1.16 trillion absorb 8.5 percent of U.S. GDP, which was $13.67 trillion in 2006.

• Regulations dwarf the $150 billion economic stimulus package passed in early 2008.  

• Given that 2007 government spending stood at $2.73 trillion, the hidden tax of regulation now approaches half the level of federal spending itself.

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The Iowegian wants readers to think about rental permit fees. The Centerville City Council has conducted two working sessions and a third one is planned in order to get a feel for the public's appetite about raising rental permit fees from charging a landlord $25 every two years to charging a certain amount per rental unit per year. So, the question of the week is, "Are you in favor of Centerville increasing rental permit fees?"

A. I'm in favor.
B. I'm not in favor.
C. I'm not sure.
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