Economy Burdened by '10,000 Commandments'

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WASHINGTON - Federal regulations are becoming so burdensome that they're weighing down the American economy. They're also costing Americans more money than they spend on food and clothing.

Wayne Crews, vice president of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, addresses the issue in his annual report "Ten Thousand Commandments."

"But now of course we've got a lot more than 10,000 commandments because we've had 88,000 regulations in just the past decade," he told CBN News.

Crews said there are more federal regulations on the books than most humans could ever read.

"The Federal Register this past year was 79,000 pages," he noted. "Imagine that: 79,000 pages of rules."

Crews said the costs are real and substantial, citing as an example how Obamacare's dictates are already affecting businesses.

"It's been all over the news about Obamacare and how companies are either downsizing, job formation rates are much lower, companies are putting their employees on part-time basis rather than fulltime. So regulation is a heavy load," he said.

Crews estimates federal regulations cost the economy a whopping $1.9 trillion a year, an eighth of the country's GDP. For an American household, that translates into almost $15,000 a year.

"And if you think of the average family income of about $65,000, in that neighborhood, it's around 23 percent," Crews said.

"It's the biggest item in the family budget," he noted. "If you think of it that way, except for housing, it's bigger than entertainment, food, everything else."

But Crews says don't blame Congress, which is too gridlocked to do much regulating. Instead, much of the fault lies with the federal agencies, which are spewing out an average of 3,600 regulations a year.

"Last year, there were 51 regulations for every law passed by Congress," Crews said.

Crews said the very most expensive kind, called "economically significant rules," are growing especially fast: 191 last year.

"That doesn't mean a little bit of money or it might just bother you a little bit. An economically significant regulation is one that's officially designated to cost a hundred million dollars a year annually," Crews said.

Many are saying it's time to question whether the benefits of regulations and rules are worth the lost jobs, lost growth, and nearly $2 trillion they're shaving off the U.S. economy every year.

But Crews warns that as the nanny state grows ever bigger and controls more of Americans' lives, the biggest costs to the public may be ones that can't be easily measured.

"And one thing that we never measure is loss of liberty," he said. "What is the cost of losing our liberties?"

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Paul  Strand

Paul Strand

CBN News Washington Sr. Correspondent

As senior correspondent in CBN's Washington, D.C., bureau, Paul Strand has covered a variety of political and social issues, with an emphasis on defense, justice, and Congress.  Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulStrandCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/PaulStrandCBN.