Like streamers raining down upon New Year’s revelers in Times Square, a torrent of red tape was unleashed on the nation in 2015. Literally thousands of new regulations combined with existing ones to infringe on every aspect of daily life. Justified or not, each one imposes an economic burden and chips away at individual freedom.
Which regulations were the worst?
Here is our take.
- Killing headstone competition. It’s not unusual for regulations to restrict competition. But a ban by New Jersey on sales of tombstones by churches — adopted in March at the behest of commercial monument makers — is a new low and a grave problem for consumers.
- More than a pinch of (salt) regulation. The city that tried to restrict the amount of soda consumed by its citizens found a new target in September: Certain New York restaurants now have to include warnings on their menus about the sodium content in many popular dishes.
- Restroom access. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, charged with ensuring safe workplaces, expanded its mandate in June by declaring that businesses should allow employees to use whichever restroom corresponds to their “gender identity.”
- Mandatory birth control insurance. The decision to include such coverage should be up to the individual and the employer who provides the insurance, not the government.
- Minimum wages, minimum jobs. Seattle businesses were forced to increase wages in April under an ordinance that set a minimum wage of $15 an hour. Proponents claim the edict will lift workers out of poverty, but the reality appears otherwise. Higher labor costs disproportionately burden new and small businesses — those that create the largest proportion of jobs.
- Fatwa on transfats. The Food and Drug Administration in June effectively banned the addition of transfats to processed foods. Yet the government once touted transfats as a healthier alternative to saturated fats.
- Energy police strike again. The Energy Department in December imposed yet another new energy efficiency standard — this time on commercial air conditioners and freezers. It’s just the latest in a seemingly endless series of design dictates — including virtually all home appliances.
- The swelling regulatory tide. In their new “Waters of the United States” rule, the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers expanded their own jurisdiction to regulate virtually every wet spot in the nation. Exceeding the broadest interpretation of U.S. Supreme Court precedent, the edict threatens the property rights of millions of Americans.
- 19th century rules for the 21st century Internet. The Federal Communications Commission in February declared that Internet service providers are “common carriers,” thereby subjecting them to the type of regulations crafted for 19th century monopolies such as railroads and old Ma Bell.
- Dirty rulemaking at EPA. The Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan was crafted to eliminate coal as a fuel for generating electricity. Energy costs will skyrocket in a number of states, and electricity reliability will be weakened.
Celebrating the New Year is a demonstration of hope for better times. But in the realm of regulation, there is nothing to celebrate.
James L. Gattuso and Diane Katz are senior research fellows at The Heritage Foundation.
This piece was originally distributed by the Tribune News Service.
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