Right On: Applying REINS to regulation is the right thing to do

Stock image, St. George News

OPINION — So which government regulations are you violating today? If you’re not doing it today, odds are very high that you have recently.

Have you kept track of sales tax due on all your out-of-state online purchases? Poured anything other than water in the gutter or storm drain grate? Got receipts for every income tax deduction?

For those operating a small business, regulations governing virtually every aspect of that business are overwhelming.

Regulations are required in any organized society. Speed limits and stop signs come to mind. But examples of regulatory excess abound. Here are a few:

How did we get this overwhelming blanket of regulations governing so many day-to-day activities?

Regulation is rooted in the notion that enlightened elites know far better than we do what is good for us. Excesses occur as the nanny-state regulators delve ever deeper into everyday life. At the same time, regulators have become more distant from the average citizen.

The nanny state’s size is staggering. Democrats are quick to point out that only about 2.1 million civilians work for the federal government, growing from 1.8 million in 1960. This number is a smoke screen.

Washington Post columnist George Will, relying on research by John DiIulio of the left-leaning Brookings Institute, explains that the federal government has stealthily expanded its effective workforce. It has done this despite public opposition to “big government.”

The federal government has commandeered state and local governments into providing proxy federal employees by pushing much of its regulatory overhead onto them: Medicaid, welfare, education, environmental protection, social services and more. The federal government funds these programs; states and local governments hire the employees.

State and local government employment has grown from about 6 million in 1960 to over 20 million today. State and local leaders are delighted to increase local employment. The downside? They become dependent on these pseudo-entitlement programs and scream bloody murder if funding or staffing cuts are proposed.

Our local Five County Association of Governments illustrates this stealthy expansion of federal regulation; it is agonizing over a possible funding cut.

Federal employment also has been held in check by hiring both for-profit and nonprofit businesses to perform government work. DiIulio estimates about 12 million nongovernment workers are funded this way.

Freeing up federal workers has given them time to produce about 80,000 pages of regulations a year, telling all these proxy employees what they are to do and how to do it. As a point of reference, the King James Bible contains about 1,200 pages.

Still think you aren’t violating at least one regulation? Slim chance.

Congressional intent is necessarily expressed in general terms with detailed implementation left to regulators. Sadly – and with increasing frequency – federal regulators find opportunity to twist congressional intent in ways that advance their own political goals.

Recent examples of federal regulatory excesses to achieve political goals are easy to find. As Obama famously said when he no longer had a Democratic Congress, “If Congress won’t act, I will.”

Here are a few of his administration’s most egregious regulatory excesses:

  • Twisting the Communications Act of 1934 to regulate today’s internet.
  • Twisting the Education Amendments of 1972 to mandate transgender restrooms.
  • Twisting the Clean Water Act of 1972 to declare farm irrigation ditches as impacting navigable waterways.
  • Twisting the Environmental Protection Act of 1970 to declare carbon dioxide a pollutant.

Needless to say, it took a liberal interpretation (double entendre intended) of congressional intent to legitimize these regulations, often based on obscure, never-before-applied sections of the laws.

So what is Congress doing to rein in regulatory excess? Its answer: the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny – or REINS – Act of 2017, passed by the House in January of this year.

The act would require any regulation with a greater than $100 million economic impact to be approved by a joint resolution of Congress and signed by the president before taking effect.

For those anxious to “drain the swamp,” REINS is a good start.

Here’s an analogy. You hire an architect to design a new home. You describe what you want as best you can, showing them pictures of homes you like. The architect prepares detailed construction plans. Even though you don’t have the architect’s expertise, would you let that person give those plans to a builder without your review and approval of both the design and the cost?

I support REINS legislation. I know I’m on the right track because it’s opposed by every liberal group you can name, all elite enablers of the nanny state.

I quickly agree that regulatory agencies have applicable expertise, but all too frequently they overestimate benefits or underestimate regulatory costs.

As an example, EPA employees believe even a miniscule pollutant must be eradicated in the name of public health. Their estimate of lives saved will be grossly inflated to justify the cost.

I counter that voters should hold their elected representatives accountable for costly regulations instead of unelected regulators.

REINS has a $100 million threshold; expect a lot of regulations with $99 million impacts. That’s how the nanny state perpetuates itself.

Howard Sierer is an opinion columnist for St. George News. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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  • comments May 18, 2017 at 3:22 pm

    And yet our entire economy came close to collapse in 2008 from lack of regulation of the finance sector (a lot of it done by the infamous bill clinton. Yes Howard, even democrats can be into reckless deregulation). So explain that one, Howard. Or is 9 years ago in history too much for your brain to handle. I know a lot of wingnuts think the Bush II era was lifetimes ago, 9 years is fairly recent history; news to a lot of you, I know.

    • desertgirl May 19, 2017 at 2:54 pm

      Lack of regulation? The government was directly responsible of the collapse and the path to 2008 started with the Clinton administration. Hows that for more than eight years ago? Like most progressives you know little of history and believe everything the libs in government and media tell you. Whether you are a wing nut or not you definitely are ignorant of facts. Learn, think for yourself before you engage your mouth so to speak.

      • comments May 19, 2017 at 10:00 pm

        What did I say? I said bill clinton was involved. He set the stage for the deregulation of investment banks. Bush II continued that path and essentially turned them loose to do whatever. Then we had housing prices doubling in just a few years in some areas. Can you even read? Did you even read the comment above? It sure as s— wasn’t over-regulation that caused the bust in ’08. you are hopeless

        • desertgirl May 21, 2017 at 9:02 am

          You placed the bulk of blame on Bush. Wrong, as the collapse would not have happened if not for seeds of destruction being sown by Clinton and Democratic policies. It is the government’s fault for offering a housing finance program without making any effort to prevent the deterioration in mortgage underwriting standards. i.e. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac; FHA, VA, and HUD contributed. The banks took the blame thanks to big brother you so embrace. Clinton and all the libs (including Rinos) claimed they wanted to help the poor and the result was creating more poor people.

          Typical response from a progressive nanny state lover; everyone else is hopeless or whatever name calling you choose. Again, learn to think for yourself and look at facts. Facts not fairytales that make you feel good.

  • comments May 18, 2017 at 3:46 pm

    I’m gonna go ahead and tell a short story since Howard’s blathering has somewhat provoked me.

    I remember where I lived during the “housing boom”. House prices nearly doubling in a span of maybe 3 years. That should’ve been a sign for alarm, not something to be celebrated, but we were in the midst of a republican administration that celebrated what was essentially an ‘orgy of greed’.

    After the crash of ’08 I remember one event vividly. I think it was sometime in ’09 I was staying at a hotel in Idaho. What I remember was waiting in the lobby, and during that time about 3 men came into the hotel. These were men who were employed in construction during the ‘housing boom’ and they were now totally out of work. What struck me is they came into the hotel, all 3 separately, and basically were begging for work from the hotel. They were willing to do anything just to feed themselves an their families. The point is, Howard, deregulation and so called “free-markets”, and allowing an unabashed greedfest to run rampant ended up hurting a lot of people in the end. So you keep spouting off with your non-sense about how all regulation is “liberal evils” to your heart’s content (I assume you weathered the 2008 crash very comfortably? News to you: a lot of folks did not). Have a good day.

  • commonsense May 18, 2017 at 9:25 pm

    Conservatives trust responsible citizens. Liberals don’t, they trust government. This drives bigger, more costly government.
    Bears Ears is a recent example. America is broke and yet Obama designates new monuments with associated expenses. Then the matter of protecting archeological sites. Conservatives trust that people will protect these sites as they have done heretofore. Liberals think a government in Wash DC is better equipped to deal with lands in Utah.
    It’s sad to examine all the regulations with associated costs burdening our economy. Drain the swamp.

    • comments May 19, 2017 at 1:41 pm

      Are you aware of how many EPA ‘superfund’ sites exist in this country from the disastrous effects of non-regulation of industry. Once again: please grow a brain. Or at least learn to think for yourself at least a little, and stop letting AM talk radio do your thinking for you.

  • comments May 19, 2017 at 1:43 pm

    Well, no one has even tried to refute anything I wrote above. Howard, I suggest you do better. A couple of your pieces have actually been quite logical, so I know you can do it.

    • desertgirl May 19, 2017 at 3:01 pm

      Oh shut up comments. You so love to listen to yourself, just like the creepy politicians and liberal media. In the end you don’t really say anything. Blah, Blah lack of facts only opinion and living in denial.

      • comments May 19, 2017 at 10:02 pm

        hey, it’s nice to know someone reads it. 😉

  • desertgirl May 19, 2017 at 2:59 pm

    The entire regulatory system should be scraped and start all over. No more than 40 to 50 pages of laws and regulations necessary to run a country. Keep voting in the liberals (most Republicans are liberals) and be willing to lose your freedom and we will get more of this big fat, bloated, crooked, maniacal government.

    • comments May 19, 2017 at 9:57 pm

      “most Republicans are liberals”

      no circusgirl, most Republicans are neo-cons.

      • desertgirl May 21, 2017 at 9:06 am

        Makes you feel good to call names. You are an angry, intolerant, ignorant person. Not name calling, observations on your comments. If I wanted to call you names this wouldn’t be published. lol

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