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Yesterday, I reported on the volume of regulations headed our way in 2013 that rivals Darth Vader's Galactic Empire for sheer size, as well as oppressiveness. Today, The Heritage Foundation is out with its Top 10 Regulations of 2012:
1. HHS’s Contraception Mandate
The Department of Health and Human Services on February 15 finalized its mandate that all health insurance plans include coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization procedures, and contraceptives. To date, 42 cases with more than 110 plaintiffs are challenging this restriction on religious liberty.
2. EPA Emissions Standards
The EPA in February finalized strict new emissions standards for coal- and oil-fired electric utilities. The benefits are highly questionable, with the vast majority being unrelated to the emissions targeted by the regulation. The costs, however, are certain: an estimated $9.6 billion annually.
3. Fuel Efficiency Standards
In August, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in tandem with the Environmental Protection Agency, finalized fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks for model years 2017–2025. The rules require a whopping average fuel economy of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. Sticker prices will jump by hundreds of dollars.
4. New York’s 16-Ounce Soda Limit
Not all regulations come from Washington. On September 13, at the behest of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the New York City Board of Health banned the sale of soda and other sweetened drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces.
5. Dishwasher Efficiency Standards
Regulators admit that these Department of Energy rules will do little to improve the environment. Rather, proponents claim they will save consumers money. But they will also increase the price of dishwashers, and only about one in six consumers will keep his or her dishwasher long enough to recoup the cost.
6. School Lunch Standards
The U.S. Department of Agriculture in January published stringent nutrition standards for school lunch and breakfast programs. More than 98,000 elementary and secondary schools are affected—at a cost exceeding $3.4 billion over the next four years.
7. Quickie Union Election Rule
In April, the National Labor Relations Board issued new rules that shorten the time allowed for union-organizing elections to between 10 and 21 days. This leaves little time for employees to make a fully informed choice on unionizing, threatening to leave workers and management alike under unwanted union regimes.
8. Essential Benefits Rule
Under Obamacare, insurers in the individual and small group markets will be forced to cover services that the government deems to be essential. Published on November 26, the HHS list of very broad benefits has created enormous uncertainty about the extent of essential treatment.
9. Electronic Data Recorder Mandate
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on December 13 issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to mandate installation of electronic data recorders, popularly known as “black boxes,” in most light vehicles starting in 2014. The government mandate understandably spooks privacy advocates.
10. “Simplified” Mortgage Disclosure and Servicing Rules
In July, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released its proposal for a more “consumer friendly” mortgage process, with a stated goal of simplifying home loans. The rules run an astonishing 1,099 pages. Then, one month later, the bureau proposed more than 560 pages of rules for mortgage servicing.
How they narrowed it down to just 10 of the worst is hard to imagine, but nonetheless, they've highlighted some of the most expensive, most intrusive regulations into personal liberty that we've seen in quite some time. What appears clear is that we have gone way beyond the tipping point of merely creating some simple rules to make various industries more fair or more responsible, and we've entered a world where regulations are written to be punitive towards activities or commerce that are deemed by unelected bureaucrats as being undesirable. Choosing winners and losers, and fundamentally reshaping our economy, it seems, have replaced common sense regulation of an otherwise free market.
In addition to these abominations listed above, I dug further into some of the new regulations mentioned yesterday that are designed to protect the earth's ozone layer. While digging, I ran into this little tidbit:
According to the annual “Regulator’s Budget” compiled last year by George Washington University and Washington University in St. Louis, the employment of federal government regulators has climbed 13% since Obama took office, while private sector jobs shrank by 5.6%. In fact, if the federal government’s regulatory operations were a business, their $54 billion budget would make them one of the 50 the largest in the country… bigger than McDonald’s, Ford, Disney and Boeing combined.
Now, with his re-election behind him, President Obama can plow “Forward”, using the EPA and other agencies to expand regulatory intervention into wide-ranging aspects of our lives and economy. Particularly hard hit will be those which are highly energy-dependent.
The article goes on to explain in excruciating detail how many jobs will be lost due to the unchecked powers of the EPA to implement the plan:
The American Council for Capital Formation estimates that the new EPA regulations already in place will result in 476,000 to 1,400,000 lost jobs by the end of 2014. Management Information Services, Inc. foresees that up to 2.5 million jobs will be sacrificed, annual household income could decrease by $1,200, and gasoline and residential electricity prices may increase 50% by 2030. The Heritage Foundation projects that the greenhouse gas regulations will cost nearly $7 trillion (2008 dollars) in economic output by 2029.
Former climate czar Carol Browner was very clear about what's in store when she told several green groups not to worry, because “President Obama has a big green ‘to-do’ list for 2013 so they’ll get what they want."On the other hand, if you want to build a coal plant, you’ve got a big problem. EPA's proposed coal ash rule could cost $79 to $110 billion over 20 years, destroying 183,900 to 316,000 jobs. This will have disastrous impacts in states like Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and Missouri. (Remember hearing about some of those states as likely Republican swing states?)
Oh, and back to the new ozone rules:
Although President Obama previously admitted that the “regulatory burdens and regulatory uncertainty” of tightening an existing ozone standard would harm jobs and the economy, he still pointed to the fact that it will be reconsidered in 2013. EPA itself estimated that this would cost $90 billion a year. Other studies project that the rule could cost upwards of a trillion dollars and destroy 7.4 million jobs, and put 650 additional counties into a category of “non-attainment”. This is the equivalent of posting a “closed for business” sign on communities which will suffer from severe business and job losses resulting from large numbers of plant closures.
And hey, in case that weren't enough, bonus EPA powers!
A proposed new guidance document for waters covered by the Clean Water Act, reinterprets recent Supreme Court decisions to allow EPA to expand federal control over virtually every body of water in the United States, no matter how small. EPA’s own analysis of the document estimated that up to 17% of current non-jurisdictional determinations would be considered jurisdictional using the new guidance. Such federal guidance will impose large additional regulatory responsibilities and costs for states and municipalities.
The article goes on to provide some hope in the form of successful litigation that has seen many rules overturned, but it's fair to say that this is an onerous process at best. What has become clear is that the Obama administration, with its army of bureaucrats, is making regulatory decisions based not on improving the American economy, but rather in a concerted effort to fundamentally change our economy.
Elections have consequences, indeed.