Across the Table – Government rule book is growing

$14,666 a year is a lot of money to cover in the family budget. It’s more than the average household spends on food, transportation, health care, clothes or any other expenditure other than housing. It’s almost 20 percent more than the average household’s income tax. We’re all paying it and likely don’t even realize it.

Cost of regulations
$14,666 is the average household’s cost to comply with federal regulations.

$14,666 is the average household’s cost to comply with federal regulations. The costs are built into the price of literally every product or service you buy. The rules are spelled out in the Federal Register, which in 2016, had 95,894 pages added. That’s 369 new pages added every day. It’s a $1.9 trillion expense for the economy. Then, there’s the Ohio Revised Code, which is 36 volumes and more than 15 million words. The ORC includes 246,852 restrictions on individuals, communities, farms, businesses and organizations. I learned these stats from researchers at the Competitive Enterprise Institute and The Mercatus Center at George Mason University. They both explain how government dictates can slow or damage economic growth. My personal experience tells me the researchers are right.

In the early 2000s I worked as a senior official at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, where I served with dedicated professionals doing their best for the environment and Americans. One project required EPA to consult with the Department of the Interior. It took creating a new federal regulation and two years of work to simply allow the two agencies to talk.

Here at Farm Bureau, much of our time is spent keeping up with government rules that affect the organization. I have a five-inch thick binder of rules covering financial management, compensation, taxes, branding, benefits, services, insurance coverages, ethics and general business practices. Just our advocacy work requires more than 30 compliance reports a year. Bottom line: hundreds of staff hours go into doing paperwork rather than doing the business of Farm Bureau.

It’s no better on our family farm. I spend more time pushing paper than I do driving the tractor. Our farm isn’t unique. The Mercatus Center said three of the top six most regulated industries in Ohio are food manufacturing, animal production and crop production.

In many cases, regulations are essential. We need rules that protect our families, farms and businesses, communities and the environment. What we don’t need are rules that are unclear, redundant, politically motivated or, most aggravating, ineffective.

For example, in the 1960s the feds began saying we should pay more attention to our weight. In the 1990s, the government required calorie and nutrition labels on grocery food packages. Now, labels are being required on vending machine foods and restaurant menus. How’s that worked out? Between 1960 and 2017, the average American’s weight has gone up 29 pounds. Of course, the cost of labeling gets passed on to consumers, so it’s our wallets, not our waistlines, that have gotten slimmer. If anything needs to shed a few pounds, it’s the government rule book.

32 feet of rules, proposed rules and related information, all added to the Federal Register in a single year.  There’s no doubt, government is too deep into our lives.

Ohio Farm Bureau membership