Over $1 trillion last year, according to Steve Forbes:

…Last year Congress passed and the President signed into law a total of 285 bills. Yet federal regulatory agencies issued 3,830 ”final” rules. The total regulatory compliance costs of all these regulations hit $1.172 trillion in 2008. That’s almost as much as Uncle Sam raised in individual income tax collections and three times the $345 billion in corporate income taxes.

With all that the Obama Administration wants to do regarding health care, energy and everything else, you can count on the regulations to mushroom just the way federal spending is now. There are already loads of rules in the pipeline: ”61 federal departments, agencies, and commissions have 4,004 regulations in play at various stages of implementation … 180 are ‘economically significant’ rules, packing at least $100 million in economic impact.”

There’s no easy way to track the impact on the economy since the Federal government doesn’t track those costs.  So the Competitive Enterprise Institute did the job the government won’t do and published its overview in Ten Thousand Commandments 2009.  On the hidden cost of regulation,

…Yet the government’s reach extends even beyond the taxes Washington collects and the deficit spending and borrowing now surging. Federal environmental, safety and health, and economic regulations cost hundreds of billions of dollars every year over and above the costs of the official federal outlays that dominate the policy agenda now.

Firms generally pass along the costs of some taxes to consumers. Likewise, some regulatory compliance costs that businesses shoulder find their way into consumer prices. Precise regulatory costs can never be fully known; unlike taxes, they are unbudgeted and often indirect. But scattered government and private data exist on scores of regulations and the agencies that issue them, as well as on regulatory costs and benefits. Some of that information can be compiled to make the regulatory state somewhat more comprehensible. That is one purpose of the annual Ten Thousand Commandments report, highlights of which appear next…

Go to the link to see some staggering numbers.

Transparency and Congressional responsibility are a good start:

Like federal spending, each agency’s flow of regulations and their costs should be tracked and monitored each year. Cost-benefit analysis of rules is the usual approach to policing excess regulation. A problem with cost-benefit analysis, however, is that it largely amounts to agency self-policing; agencies that perform “audits” of their own rules would rarely admit that a rule’s benefits do not justify the costs involved. At the least, some third-party review is needed.

Going further, Congress should answer for the compliance costs (and benefits) of federal regulations. Requiring expedited votes on economically significant or controversial agency rules before they become binding on the population would reestablish congressional accountability, helping to fulfill a principle of “no regulation without representation.”

Disclosing regulatory costs remains important even if Congress approves all rules. Openness about regulatory facts and figures is critical, just as disclosure of program costs is critical in the federal budget. Simple federal regulatory report cards, similar to the presentation in Ten Thousand Commandments, could be officially issued each year to distill information to the public and policy makers about the scope of the regulatory state.

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