Category Archives: regulation

This Week in Ridiculous Regulations

The House passed a $1.85 trillion spending bill, which a 50-50 Senate will now consider. An Alzheimer’s vaccine began human trials. If it proves safe and effective, we will then find out how many years the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will withhold it from patients. Hopefully the FDA learned the right lesson from its expedited approval of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines. Meanwhile, agencies issued new rules ranging from date taxes to refractory products.

On to the data:

  • Agencies issued 63 final regulations last week, after 52 the previous week.
  • That’s the equivalent of a new regulation every two hours and 40 minutes.
  • With 2,865 final regulations so far in 2021, agencies are on pace to issue 3,301 final regulations this year. 2020’s total was 3,218 final regulations.
  • Agencies issued 41 proposed regulations in the Federal Register last week, after 34 the previous week.
  • With 1,851 proposed regulations so far in 2021, agencies are on pace to issue 2,132 proposed regulations this year. 2020’s total was 2,222 proposed regulations.
  • Agencies published 391 notices last week, after 343 notices the previous week.
  • With 19,725 notices so far in 2021, agencies are on pace to issue 22,725 notices this year. 2020’s total was 22,480.
  • Last week, 3,255 new pages were added to the Federal Register, after 1,225 pages the previous week.
  • The average Federal Register issue this year contains 299 pages.
  • With 66,150 pages so far, the 2021 Federal Register is on pace for 76,210 pages in 2021. The 2020 total was 87,352 pages. The all-time record adjusted page count (subtracting skips, jumps, and blank pages) is 96,994, set in 2016.
  • Rules are called “economically significant” if they have costs of $100 million or more in a given year. There are 21 such rules so far in 2021, three from the last week. Agencies published five economically significant rules in 2020, and four in 2019.
  • The running cost tally for 2021’s economically significant rules ranges from $6.72 billion to $11.61 billion. The 2020 figure ranges from net savings of between $2.04 billion and $5.69 billion, mostly from estimated savings on federal spending. The exact numbers depend on discount rates and other assumptions.
  • Agencies have published 331 final rules meeting the broader definition of “significant” in 2021, with four in the last week. This is on pace for 381 significant rules in 2021. 2020’s total was 79 significant final rules.
  • In 2021, 789 new rules affect small businesses; 84 are classified as significant. 2020’s totals were 668 rules affecting small businesses, 26 of them significant.

Highlights from last week’s new regulations:

For more data, see Ten Thousand Commandments and follow @10KC and @RegoftheDay on Twitter.

This Week in Ridiculous Regulations

Children can now receive COVID-19 vaccinations, which is good news all around. The economy gained 531,000 jobs in October, showing once again why Congress’ big spending bills are unnecessary. Meanwhile, pundits spent the week analyzing off-year election results. Agencies issued new rules ranging from rural innovation to seafood dealers.

On to the data:

  • Agencies issued 63 final regulations last week, after 58 the previous week.
  • That’s the equivalent of a new regulation every two hours and 40 minutes.
  • With 2,750 final regulations so far in 2021, agencies are on pace to issue 3,243 final regulations this year. 2020’s total was 3,218 final regulations.
  • Agencies issued 33 proposed regulations in the Federal Register last week, after 61 the previous week.
  • With 1,776 proposed regulations so far in 2021, agencies are on pace to issue 2,094 proposed regulations this year. 2020’s total was 2,222 proposed regulations.
  • Agencies published 495 notices last week, after 418 notices the previous week.
  • With 18,911 notices so far in 2021, agencies are on pace to issue 22,301 notices this year. 2020’s total was 22,480.
  • Last week, 1,505 new pages were added to the Federal Register, after 1,394 pages the previous week.
  • The average Federal Register issue this year contains 291 pages.
  • With 61,664 pages so far, the 2021 Federal Register is on pace for 72,717 pages in 2021. The 2020 total was 87,352 pages. The all-time record adjusted page count (subtracting skips, jumps, and blank pages) is 96,994, set in 2016.
  • Rules are called “economically significant” if they have costs of $100 million or more in a given year. There are 16 such rules so far in 2021, none from the last week. Agencies published five economically significant rules in 2020, and four in 2019.
  • The running cost tally for 2021’s economically significant rules ranges from $4.61 billion to $8.40 billion. The 2020 figure ranges from net savings of between $2.04 billion and $5.69 billion, mostly from estimated savings on federal spending. The exact numbers depend on discount rates and other assumptions.
  • Agencies have published 348 final rules meeting the broader definition of “significant” in 2021, with four in the last week. This is on pace for 410 significant rules in 2021. 2020’s total was 79 significant final rules.
  • In 2021, 761 new rules affect small businesses; 88 are classified as significant. 2020’s totals were 668 rules affecting small businesses, 26 of them significant.

Highlights from last week’s new regulations:

For more data, see Ten Thousand Commandments and follow @10KC and @RegoftheDay on Twitter.

This Week in Ridiculous Regulations

Third quarter GDP growth was an estimated at 2 percent, down from about 6 percent the previous two quarters. The 2021 Federal Register topped 60,000 pages with two months left in the year. Meanwhile, agencies issued new rules ranging from fan efficiency to motherships.

On to the data:

  • Agencies issued 58 final regulations last week, after 53 the previous week.
  • That’s the equivalent of a new regulation every two hours and 54 minutes.
  • With 2,687 final regulations so far in 2021, agencies are on pace to issue 3,245 final regulations this year. 2020’s total was 3,218 final regulations.
  • Agencies issued 61 proposed regulations in the Federal Register last week, after 36 the previous week.
  • With 1,743 proposed regulations so far in 2021, agencies are on pace to issue 2,105 proposed regulations this year. 2020’s total was 2,222 proposed regulations.
  • Agencies published 418 notices last week, after 491 notices the previous week.
  • With 18,416 notices so far in 2021, agencies are on pace to issue 22,242 notices this year. 2020’s total was 22,480.
  • Last week, 1,394 new pages were added to the Federal Register, after 1,238 pages the previous week.
  • The average Federal Register issue this year contains 291 pages.
  • With 60,158 pages so far, the 2021 Federal Register is on pace for 72,655 pages in 2021. The 2020 total was 87,352 pages. The all-time record adjusted page count (subtracting skips, jumps, and blank pages) is 96,994, set in 2016.
  • Rules are called “economically significant” if they have costs of $100 million or more in a given year. There are 16 such rules so far in 2021, three from the last week. Agencies published five economically significant rules in 2020, and four in 2019.
  • The running cost tally for 2021’s economically significant rules ranges from $4.61 billion to $8.40 billion. The 2020 figure ranges from net savings of between $2.04 billion and $5.69 billion, mostly from estimated savings on federal spending. The exact numbers depend on discount rates and other assumptions.
  • Agencies have published 344 final rules meeting the broader definition of “significant” in 2021, with four in the last week. That is on pace for 415 significant rules in 2021. 2020’s total was 79 significant final rules.
  • In 2021, 734 new rules affect small businesses; 87 are classified as significant. 2020’s totals were 668 rules affecting small businesses, 26 of them significant.

Highlights from last week’s new regulations:

For more data, see Ten Thousand Commandments and follow @10KC and @RegoftheDay on Twitter.

This Week in Ridiculous Regulations

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved COVID-19 booster shots for adults over 65, or with certain medical conditions, or who have job-related COVID exposure. The Pfizer vaccine also has an estimated 90 percent effectiveness in preventing symptomatic COVID in children aged five to 11, which should encourage regulators to finally approve it. Meanwhile, agencies issued new rules ranging from boat fires to meal pattern revisions.

On to the data:

  • Agencies issued 53 final regulations last week, after 30 the previous week.
  • That is the equivalent of a new regulation every five hours and 36 minutes.
  • With 2,629 final regulations so far in 2021, agencies are on pace to issue 3,254 final regulations this year. 2020’s total was 3,218 final regulations.
  • Agencies issued 36 proposed regulations in the Federal Register last week, after 27 the previous week.
  • With 1,682 proposed regulations so far in 2021, agencies are on pace to issue 2,082 proposed regulations this year. 2020’s total was 2,222 proposed regulations.
  • Agencies published 491 notices last week, after 379 notices the previous week.
  • With 17,988 notices so far in 2021, agencies are on pace to issue 22,262 notices this year. 2020’s total was 22,480.
  • Last week, 1,238 new pages were added to the Federal Register, after 859 pages the previous week.
  • The average Federal Register issue this year contains 291 pages.
  • With 58,762 pages so far, the 2021 Federal Register is on pace for 72,725 pages in 2021. The 2020 total was 87,352 pages. The all-time record adjusted page count (subtracting skips, jumps, and blank pages) is 96,994, set in 2016.
  • Rules are called “economically significant” if they have costs of $100 million or more in a given year. There are 13 such rules so far in 2021, none from the last week. Agencies published five economically significant rules in 2020, and four in 2019.
  • The running cost tally for 2021’s economically significant rules ranges from $2.77 billion to $6.61 billion. The 2020 figure ranges from net savings of between $2.04 billion and $5.69 billion, mostly from estimated savings on federal spending. The exact numbers depend on discount rates and other assumptions.
  • Agencies have published 340 final rules meeting the broader definition of “significant” in 2021, with five in the last week. This is on pace for 421 significant rules in 2021. 2020’s total was 79 significant final rules.
  • In 2021, 719 new rules affect small businesses; 86 are classified as significant. 2020’s totals were 668 rules affecting small businesses, 26 of them significant.

Highlights from last week’s new regulations:

For more data, see Ten Thousand Commandments and follow @10KC and @RegoftheDay on Twitter.

This Week in Ridiculous Regulations

In a four-day week, the economy got mixed news on employment and inflation, a dubious new antitrust bill was announced, and William Shatner flew into space. Meanwhile, agencies issued new rules ranging from timber telecom products to tomato committees.

On to the data:

  • Agencies issued 30 final regulations last week, after 77 the previous week.
  • That is the equivalent of a new regulation every five hours and 36 minutes.
  • With 2,576 final regulations so far in 2021, agencies are on pace to issue 3,269 final regulations this year. 2020’s total was 3,218 final regulations.
  • Agencies issued 27 proposed regulations in the Federal Register last week, after 37 the previous week.
  • With 1,646 proposed regulations so far in 2021, agencies are on pace to issue 2,088 proposed regulations this year. 2020’s total was 2,222 proposed regulations.
  • Agencies published 379 notices last week, after 500 notices the previous week.
  • With 17,155 notices so far in 2021, agencies are on pace to issue 22,251 notices this year. 2020’s total was 22,480.
  • Last week, 859 new pages were added to the Federal Register, after 2,057 pages the previous week.
  • The average Federal Register issue this year contains 292 pages.
  • With 57,524 pages so far, the 2021 Federal Register is on pace for 73,000 pages in 2021. The 2020 total was 87,352 pages. The all-time record adjusted page count (subtracting skips, jumps, and blank pages) is 96,994, set in 2016.
  • Rules are called “economically significant” if they have costs of $100 million or more in a given year. There are 13 such rules so far in 2021, none from the last week. Agencies published five economically significant rules in 2020, and four in 2019.
  • The running cost tally for 2021’s economically significant rules ranges from $2.77 billion to $6.61 billion. The 2020 figure ranges from net savings of between $2.04 billion and $5.69 billion, mostly from estimated savings on federal spending. The exact numbers depend on discount rates and other assumptions.
  • Agencies have published 335 final rules meeting the broader definition of “significant” in 2021, with six in the last week. This is on pace for 431 significant rules in 2021. 2020’s total was 79 significant final rules.
  • In 2021, 703 new rules affect small businesses; 85 are classified as significant. 2020’s totals were 668 rules affecting small businesses, 26 of them significant.

Highlights from last week’s new regulations:

For more data, see Ten Thousand Commandments and follow @10KC and @RegoftheDay on Twitter.

IRS Licensing of Tax Preparers Is Ripe for Abuse

Roughly a quarter of all jobs in America now require some sort of occupational license. Sixty years ago, it was about one job in 20. Should tax preparers join the list? The Taxpayer Protection and Preparer Proficiency Act of 2021 (H.R. 4184), introduced by Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), is the latest legislative attempt to do so. CEI signed onto a coalition letter this week, led by the Institute for Justice, opposing the idea.

The bill is being marketed as a consumer protection measure that would ensure that taxpayers are guaranteed quality service by a knowledgeable tax preparer. In practice, it would harm both consumers and small tax preparers. Like many occupational licensing requirements, licensing of tax preparers is economic protectionism. It would favor big accounting firms over small preparers, while raising consumer prices. The IRS’ ability to approve and deny licenses would give it an additional tool to threaten tax preparers and abuse taxpayers. And it would potentially open black markets for unaccountable “ghost preparers” who work outside the system.

First, the rent-seeking argument. H&R Block and other big firms can afford the time and expense it would take to get their employees licensed. But thousands of individual tax preparers who work part-time to help make ends meet, cannot. They would go out of business, and their customers would have no choice but to turn to the big firms. Actions speak louder than words.

Second, the power to grant licenses is also the power to take them away. If the IRS believes that a tax preparer advocates a little too hard for her clients and saves them too much money, it can put that preparer out of business. Under the bill, the IRS only needs to show in a hearing—which it convenes, for which it sets the procedures, and where the participating personnel are on its payroll—that a preparer is “incompetent” or “disreputable.” These terms are defined so vaguely under 31 U.S. Code § 330 that the IRS can use them almost any way it wishes. Penalties include fines to the preparer and her client, censure, and loss of license.

Third, licensing requirements would open up black markets for “ghost preparers.” Licensing is not free, and businesses pass their increased costs on to consumers. That means people can get cheaper tax preparation services by going to unlicensed “ghost preparers” who do not sign their name onto clients’ returns. While this might save some money, it also lets ghost preparers escape liability for mistakes. That is the opposite of consumer protection.

At the very least, Rep. Panetta should withdraw his bill. But the best long-term reform would be to treat the root of the problem: a 70,000-page tax code that is too complicated for most people to navigate without professional help. The Tax Foundation estimated in 2016 that federal tax compliance alone costs 8.9 billion hours of paperwork and $409 billion. This does not include state and local tax compliance. Those figures have likely gone up in the last five years. There are better uses for those resources, especially during a tough economic recovery.

A simpler tax code would address most of the IRS’ complaints about tax avoidance and save taxpayers time, money, and hassle—and do so in a revenue-neutral way. Big accounting firms, their lobbyists, and their political allies’ losses would be more than offset by the gains to nearly everyone else.

The coalition letter is here. Back in 2010, Caleb O. Brown and I wrote in Investor’s Business Daily about a similar proposal that ultimately failed.

This Week in Ridiculous Regulations

Katherine Tai, the new U.S. Trade Representative, gave a major speech affirming President Biden’s commitment to former President Trump’s trade protectionism. Facebook’s website went down for more than five hours, prompting policy wonks from both parties to engage in a mass display of confirmation bias. Meanwhile, agencies issued new rules ranging from the integrity of horse racing to heraldic items.

On to the data:

  • Agencies issued 77 final regulations last week, after 93 the previous week.
  • That’s the equivalent of a new regulation every two hours and 11 minutes.
  • With 2,546 final regulations so far in 2021, agencies are on pace to issue 3,298 final regulations this year. 2020’s total was 3,218 final regulations.
  • Agencies issued 37 proposed regulations in the Federal Register last week, after 39 the previous week.
  • With 1,619 proposed regulations so far in 2021, agencies are on pace to issue 2,097 proposed regulations this year. 2020’s total was 2,222 proposed regulations.
  • Agencies published 500 notices last week, after 502 notices the previous week.
  • With 17,155 notices so far in 2021, agencies are on pace to issue 22,148 notices this year. 2020’s total was 22,480.
  • Last week, 2,057 new pages were added to the Federal Register, after 1,401 pages the previous week.
  • The average Federal Register issue this year contains 294 pages.
  • With 56,664 pages so far, the 2021 Federal Register is on pace for 73,399 pages in 2021. The 2020 total was 87,352 pages. The all-time record adjusted page count (subtracting skips, jumps, and blank pages) is 96,994, set in 2016.
  • Rules are called “economically significant” if they have costs of $100 million or more in a given year. There are 13 such rules so far in 2021, three from the last week. Agencies published five economically significant rules in 2020, and four in 2019.
  • The running cost tally for 2021’s economically significant rules ranges from $2.77 billion to $6.61 billion. The 2020 figure ranges from net savings of between $2.04 billion and $5.69 billion, mostly from estimated savings on federal spending. The exact numbers depend on discount rates and other assumptions.
  • Agencies have published 333 final rules meeting the broader definition of “significant” in 2021, with six in the last week. That is on pace for 431 significant rules in 2021. 2020’s total was 79 significant final rules.
  • In 2021, 695 new rules affect small businesses; 85 are classified as significant. 2020’s totals were 668 rules affecting small businesses, 26 of them significant.

Highlights from last week’s new regulations:

For more data, see Ten Thousand Commandments and follow @10KC and @RegoftheDay on Twitter.

This Week in Ridiculous Regulations

Congress averted a government shutdown and continued to negotiate over nearly $5 trillion in combined spending. Merck announced an antiviral pill for COVID-19 that could reduce the risk of hospitalization or death in half, which could potentially free up hospital beds if the FDA allows it to market. Meanwhile, agencies issued new rules ranging from perishable mail to heaters.

On to the data:

  • Agencies issued 93 final regulations last week, after 59 the previous week.
  • That’s the equivalent of a new regulation every two hours and 51 minutes.
  • With 2,469 final regulations so far in 2021, agencies are on pace to issue 3,283 final regulations this year. 2020’s total was 3,218 final regulations.
  • Agencies issued 39 proposed regulations in the Federal Register last week, after 39 the previous week.
  • With 1,582 proposed regulations so far in 2021, agencies are on pace to issue 2,102 proposed regulations this year. 2020’s total was 2,021 proposed regulations.
  • Agencies published 502 notices last week, after 492 notices the previous week.
  • With 16,655 notices so far in 2021, agencies are on pace to issue 22,148 notices this year. 2020’s total was 22,480.
  • Last week, 1,401 new pages were added to the Federal Register, after 1,113 pages the previous week.
  • The average Federal Register issue this year contains 290 pages.
  • With 54,585 pages so far, the 2021 Federal Register is on pace for 72,586 pages in 2021. The 2020 total was 87,352 pages. The all-time record adjusted page count (subtracting skips, jumps, and blank pages) is 96,994, set in 2016.
  • Rules are called “economically significant” if they have costs of $100 million or more in a given year. There are 10 such rules so far in 2021, none from the last week. Agencies published five economically significant rules in 2020, and four in 2019.
  • The running cost tally for 2021’s economically significant rules ranges from $1.42 billion to $4.81 billion. The 2020 figure ranges from net savings of between $2.04 billion and $5.69 billion, mostly from estimated savings on federal spending. The exact numbers depend on discount rates and other assumptions.
  • Agencies have published 318 final rules meeting the broader definition of “significant” in 2021, with six in the last week. This is on pace for 516 significant rules in 2021. 2020’s total was 79 significant final rules.
  • In 2021, 679 new rules affect small businesses; 83 are classified as significant. 2020’s totals were 668 rules affecting small businesses, 26 of them significant.

Highlights from last week’s new regulations:

For more data, see Ten Thousand Commandments and follow @10KC and @RegoftheDay on Twitter.

This Week in Ridiculous Regulations

CEI held its Julian Simon Award dinner, honoring the development economist William Easterly. We also paid remembrance to 2020’s winner, the late, great Steve Horwitz. Congress returned from recess and there is drama surrounding the debt limit and the proposed $3.5 trillion spending bill. Meanwhile, agencies issued new rules ranging from imported animal drugs to cotton.

On to the data:

  • Agencies issued 59 final regulations last week, for the third straight week. Though not a meaningful coincidence, I do not believe this has happened before since I began tracking these numbers.
  • That’s the equivalent of a new regulation every two hours and 51 minutes.
  • With 2,376 final regulations so far in 2021, agencies are on pace to issue 3,246 final regulations this year. 2020’s total was 3,218 final regulations.
  • Agencies issued 39 proposed regulations in the Federal Register last week, after 46 the previous week.
  • With 1,543 proposed regulations so far in 2021, agencies are on pace to issue 2,108 proposed regulations this year. 2020’s total was 2,021 proposed regulations.
  • Agencies published 492 notices last week, after 458 notices the previous week.
  • With 16,153 notices so far in 2021, agencies are on pace to issue 22,067 notices this year. 2020’s total was 22,480.
  • Last week, 1,113 new pages were added to the Federal Register, after 1,231 pages the previous week.
  • The average Federal Register issue this year contains 291 pages.
  • With 53,182 pages so far, the 2021 Federal Register is on pace for 72,656 pages in 2021. The 2020 total was 87,352 pages. The all-time record adjusted page count (subtracting skips, jumps, and blank pages) is 96,994, set in 2016.
  • Rules are called “economically significant” if they have costs of $100 million or more in a given year. There are 10 such rules so far in 2021, none from the last week. Agencies published five economically significant rules in 2020, and four in 2019.
  • The running cost tally for 2021’s economically significant rules ranges from $1.42 billion to $4.81 billion. The 2020 figure ranges from net savings of between $2.04 billion and $5.69 billion, mostly from estimated savings on federal spending. The exact numbers depend on discount rates and other assumptions.
  • Agencies have published 307 final rules meeting the broader definition of “significant” in 2021, with six in the last week. This is on pace for 502 significant rules in 2021. 2020’s total was 79 significant final rules.
  • In 2021, 656 new rules affect small businesses; 82 are classified as significant. 2020’s totals were 668 rules affecting small businesses, 26 of them significant.

Highlights from last week’s new regulations:

For more data, see Ten Thousand Commandments and follow @10KC and @RegoftheDay on Twitter.

Not Always an Antitrust Issue: Airline Edition

The Justice Department is gearing up to file an antitrust case against JetBlue and American Airlines over an alliance they recently formed. The Wall Street Journal reports:

The lawsuit, which could come as soon as Tuesday, is expected to argue that the recently forged alliance threatens competition and higher fares, the people said.

American and JetBlue announced their alliance in July 2020, saying boosting their offerings in the Northeast by marketing one another’s flights on certain routes would allow them to become more formidable competitors at the three New York area airports and in Boston.

Assume, for the sake of argument, that the American-JetBlue pact is anti-competitive (the airlines dispute this, and I have not yet reached a conclusion). Is antitrust enforcement the right tool for increasing competition? Probably not. Antitrust regulation has a number of built-in flaws that cannot be reformed.

Market conditions can change in a lot less time than it takes to conduct a trial, which is why the case over big IBM’s dominance in mainframe computing, filed in 1969, was eventually dropped—in 1982, when personal computers were taking over the market.

Competing in the courtroom takes resources away from competing in the market, and can have a chilling effect on efficiency-enhancing innovations and business practices.

And then there is regulatory capture, where businesses coopt regulators for their own purposes. It wouldn’t be surprising to see other airlines try to influence this case, just as rival software companies did during the Microsoft case in the late 1990s. Oracle went as far as attempting to bribe rivals’ office janitors to hand over trash that might have contained sensitive documents.

A better solution would be to repeal existing regulations that bar international airlines from operating domestic flights in the U.S.—which is essentially a Jones Act for airlines. That reform alone would expose American’s and JetBlue’s joint flights to hundreds of potential new competitors. It would require no new spending, no court costs, and no lawyer fees. The airlines could compete in the marketplace, not the courtroom, and those worried about increasing concentration in the airline industry would have far less to worry about.

Antitrust is trendy right now. Its high visibility is one reason why activists are calling for using antitrust enforcement everywhere from airlines to health care to live events—and not just against the Big Tech companies that garner most of the headlines.

When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. But sometimes the correct tool for the job is a screwdriver or a saw. This is one case where the right tool is regulatory reform, not an antitrust prosecution.

For more CEI research on antitrust, see our dedicated antitrust website, as well as Wayne Crews’s and my paper “The Case against Antitrust Law.”