It seems that no aspect of American life can escape government regulation. In the past year, regulators drafted rules that addressed everything from caloric intake to dishwasher efficiency.
Most of these rules increase the cost of living, others hinder job creation, and many erode freedom. Not all regulations are unwarranted, of course, but increasingly, the rules imposed by the government have less to do with health and safety and more to do with whether government or individuals get to make basic pocketbook and lifestyle decisions that affect them. And it is not just the regulators who are to blame. Congress writes laws that give unelected bureaucrats the broad powers they wield.
Today we bring you 10 of the worst regulations from 2012:
1. HHS’s Contraception Mandate
The Department of Health and Human Services on February 15 finalized its mandate that all health insurance plans include coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization procedures, and contraceptives. To date, 42 cases with more than 110 plaintiffs are challenging this restriction on religious liberty.
2. EPA Emissions Standards
The EPA in February finalized strict new emissions standards for coal- and oil-fired electric utilities. The benefits are highly questionable, with the vast majority being unrelated to the emissions targeted by the regulation. The costs, however, are certain: an estimated $9.6 billion annually.
3. Fuel Efficiency Standards
In August, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in tandem with the Environmental Protection Agency, finalized fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks for model years 2017–2025. The rules require a whopping average fuel economy of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. Sticker prices will jump by hundreds of dollars.
4. New York’s 16-Ounce Soda Limit
Not all regulations come from Washington. On September 13, at the behest of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the New York City Board of Health banned the sale of soda and other sweetened drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces.
5. Dishwasher Efficiency Standards
Regulators admit that these Department of Energy rules will do little to improve the environment. Rather, proponents claim they will save consumers money. But they will also increase the price of dishwashers, and only about one in six consumers will keep his or her dishwasher long enough to recoup the cost.
6. School Lunch Standards
The U.S. Department of Agriculture in January published stringent nutrition standards for school lunch and breakfast programs. More than 98,000 elementary and secondary schools are affected—at a cost exceeding $3.4 billion over the next four years.
7. Quickie Union Election Rule
In April, the National Labor Relations Board issued new rules that shorten the time allowed for union-organizing elections to between 10 and 21 days. This leaves little time for employees to make a fully informed choice on unionizing, threatening to leave workers and management alike under unwanted union regimes.
8. Essential Benefits Rule
Under Obamacare, insurers in the individual and small group markets will be forced to cover services that the government deems to be essential. Published on November 26, the HHS list of very broad benefits has created enormous uncertainty about the extent of essential treatment.
9. Electronic Data Recorder Mandate
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on December 13 issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to mandate installation of electronic data recorders, popularly known as “black boxes,” in most light vehicles starting in 2014. The government mandate understandably spooks privacy advocates.
10. “Simplified” Mortgage Disclosure and Servicing Rules
In July, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released its proposal for a more “consumer friendly” mortgage process, with a stated goal of simplifying home loans. The rules run an astonishing 1,099 pages. Then, one month later, the bureau proposed more than 560 pages of rules for mortgage servicing.
No End in Sight
As busy as regulators were in 2012, do not look for them to slow down in the new year. We’ll continue to document the real-life impact with our ongoing Tales of the Red Tape series on The Foundry.