Barron’s D.C. man documents the downside of overregulation

Jim McTague devotes his latest “D.C. Current” column in Barron’s to the negative impact of the federal government’s excessive red tape.

This month marks the third anniversary of President Barack Obama’s campaign to spur business formation and investment by getting rid of unnecessary government red tape — truly a noble undertaking. Nothing hobbles a start-up faster than a tangle of paperwork and the consequent pile of legal fees, unless, of course, the start-up happens to be a law office.

So how is the president’s war on red tape going? Think of the project as a retelling of the myth of Sisyphus, with Obama starring both as Hades, ruler of the underworld, and his charge, the King of Corinth, who has been condemned to perpetually push a heavy boulder to the top of a steep hill, only to have to endlessly repeat the effort. Obama and his team are piling on red tape faster than they can cut it.

In January 2011, the president launched his big initiative with the usual full-blown fanfare. Since then, the federal government has reduced the paperwork burden on all of us by tens of millions of hours annually. Nevertheless, the net number of hours spent by the public in fiscal 2011 to comply with federal paperwork hit 9.14 billion, a 355 million increase, according to the president’s Office of Management and Budget. The report for fiscal 2012 hasn’t been released, but don’t expect the trend to have changed significantly. According to an independent accounting by the American Action Forum, a think tank founded by dyed-in-the-pinstripes Republicans, the administration added 157.9 million paperwork-burden hours in calendar 2013, at a net cost of $112 billion.

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