Red Tape Regulations Man

Photo: Thinkstock

In an editorial appearing today, The Wall Street Journal examined one of the few areas of the economy enjoying an unabated boom: federal regulation.

Armed with numbers obtained from a forthcoming report by Wayne Crews of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Journal’s editors outline the disturbing growth of the Federal Register, the government’s compendium of regulatory activity. Last year, President Obama’s regulators set at least one new record, issuing more pages of final rules—26,817—than ever before.  The total number of Federal Register pages hit 79,311, just short of the all-time high of 81,405 set in 2010.

The big problem, of course, isn’t the number of pages consumed by government rules—the unnecessary death of trees notwithstanding.  Rather, the number and cost of these rules is growing as well. This trend was documented in The Heritage Foundation’s latest “Red Tape Rising” report.

According to the report, since the start of the Obama Administration, 157 major new regulations, costing almost $73 billion each year, have been imposed on the American people. This is twice the number, and triple the cost, of rules adopted at the same point in the George W. Bush Administration. And, since the costs are based on estimates by the regulators themselves, the real costs are doubtless much higher. For a summary of the facts regarding this regulatory tide, check out our easy-to-read infographic.

No matter how you measure it, the rising sea of red tape is out of control. This is one part of the economy where a boom means a bust.