Regulation is necessary to ensure health, safety, and trust in the marketplace. But, as accelerating technological change transforms the American economy, there is an emerging bipartisan recognition that our federal regulatory processes must keep pace. The current outdated federal regulatory system must be brought into the 21st century in order to preserve America’s innovation advantage and drive growth and prosperity, while maintaining fundamental protections.
The array of federal departments, agencies, and sub-agencies, staffed by over 2 million workers and contractors, which issues tens of thousands of new regulations every year, has become what George Washington University Law Professor Johnathan Turley has deemed a “fourth branch of government” not originally included in the Constitution. Its power and reach has expanded significantly, operating with few checks on its authority. Regulations, both individually and cumulatively, cost the economy two trillion dollars annually—a burden that is only growing.
For individual families, the costs are staggering: in 2017 it cost the average household $14,809. Put another way, that is 21 percent of the average household income of $69,629 and 26 percent of the average household’s expenditure budget of $55,978. The regulatory burden also disproportionately harms small businesses over large corporations: for firms with 50 employees or less, regulatory compliance costs—per employee, per year—in 2017 were $11,724—more than 29 percent greater than the average for large firms.
Congress should prudently reclaim its authority. Over decades, and continuing to this very day, Congress has delegated its legislative authority to regulatory agencies. What does it mean to have, or exercise, legislative authority? Generally speaking, some decisions are simply “legislative by nature; otherwise, the distinction among legislative, executive, and judicial powers that is fundamental to the Constitution’s structure would be meaningless.” Legislating often involves making difficult tradeoffs between two competing goals in order to find meaningful compromise.