Economic growth under the Biden administration has been underwhelming, with the economy actually shrinking during the first half of 2022. After rebounding somewhat, growth now lags again, coming in at a disappointing 1.1 percent for the first quarter of 2023, the Commerce Department reported last week.
The president who famously told us that his self-created inflation was only "transitory" opted to put on his happy face and proclaim in a statement that "the American economy remains strong, as it transitions to steady and stable growth." Back on Earth, Fed economists are predicting a "mild recession" later this year, according to Politico.
It is against this backdrop that the White House has conducted a relentless campaign to nourish the corpulent federal administrative state. According to Dan Goldbeck, director of regulatory police for the American Action Forum, President Joe Biden in his first two years has increased the paperwork burden on businesses and others by an astounding 220 million hours.
As a comparison, Barack Obama's regulatory footprint amounted to 134.5 million hours at the same point in his presidency. Donald Trump's was a meager 42.8 million.
The costs of all this meddling are enormous. Goldbeck notes that the final rules implemented so far by Biden agencies will burden the economy to the tune of $360 billion. Obama had hit only $209 billion after his first 27 months, while Trump's executive branch had imposed only $6.6 billion in costs.
The busy bureaucrats in the Biden administration have yet to slow down. Goldbeck estimates that, during that last week of April, federal "agencies published $43.4 billion in total costs and added 1.8 million annual paperwork burden hours."
Overall, the Competitive Enterprise Institute estimates that the federal regulatory yoke now represents an annual $2 trillion drag on the American economy.
Proponents of central planning argue these cost estimates are exaggerated and don't represent the positive impact of such interventions. For instance, the Ralph Nader outfit Public Citizen takes CSI to task for assigning $330 billion in regulatory costs to "tax compliance costs, which have nothing to do with regulations." Really? What is the tax code if not a hornet's nest of regulations?
It's true that many rules serve a vital purpose. Yet it's naive to believe that the Federal Register has grown to more than 70,000 pages due only to the implementation of edicts created in service to public health and safety. Public Citizen may not like to hear it, but an expansive regulatory state imposes costs that discourage innovation and hamper growth.
Like much else, this seems to have escaped the Biden economic team.