REPORT: It Would Take 1,272 Days To Read The US Regulatory Code

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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Here’s a mind-boggling statistic: it would take more than 1,272 days to read through every federal regulation added to the books in the last five decades.

That’s according to a new report by the libertarian Mercatus Center, which compared the amount of time it would take to read through the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations in 1970 versus 2016.

In nearly five decades, the amount of time it would take to read through the Code of Federal Regulations has more than tripled. A person could read through all regulations on the books in 1970 “in just a few days short of a year, assuming he or she read 250 words per minute, 40 hours per week, 50 weeks per year,” according to Mercatus experts.

“By 2016, there were 104.6 million words of federal regulation on the books, about 195 percent growth over 1970, with a corresponding increase in reading time of almost two years,” experts wrote.

Reading through regulations is by no means “light reading.” The Mercatus report notes that as the amount of rules increases so does “the complexity and the difficulty associated with understanding and following what amounts to one of the largest instruction manuals ever assembled.”

The regulatory state exploded under the Obama administration, which imposed more than 3,000 regulations with a total compliance cost of nearly $900 billion. Obama-era rules added nearly 572,000 pages to the Federal Register, including a record-setting 97,110 pages in 2016 alone.

President Donald Trump pledged to cut 70 percent of federal regulations, and signed executive orders to rein in federal rulemaking and target regulations for repeal. So far, the Trump administration has repealed hundreds of Obama-era rules, and put a hold or delayed hundreds more.

In 2017, the Trump administration has issued 18 percent fewer new regulations than the previous year. More importantly, there’s been a 58 percent decrease new in “significant” rules that come with a $100 million or greater price tag.

“Regulatory accumulation is not a benign phenomenon. It has unintended consequences, including slower economic growth, reduced employment opportunities, and disproportionate harm to low-income households,” Mercatus experts wrote in their report.

“Unless Congress and federal agencies address this growing stockpile, regulation will stifle innovation and entrepreneurship. At some point—and we may be there already—there may be so many rules that following the rules may itself distracts people from addressing real risks,” they wrote.

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