January 9th, 2013
The Washington Times has given the just concluded 112th Congress is lowest rating ever, based on its Congressional Futility Index. According to the Times,
“At its peaks, Congress adopted more than 200 conference reports in a two-year session, the Senate met for nearly 3,000 hours while the House met for nearly 2,500 hours, and the chambers combined to enact more than 1,000 laws.
But in 2011 and 2012, Congress produced just 10 conference reports, the Senate met for little more than 2,000 hours and the House for 1,700, and the two chambers combined to enact fewer than 230 laws.”
While the facts are the facts, and I don’t quibble with the WT’s numbers, I have a very different take on what it all means. Is it really bad that in the last two years Congress passed only 23o new laws? Do we really need more than 230 new laws per year for our nation to function? Is it actually a good thing that at its peak Congress enacts over 1,000 laws every two years? What are all these laws? And didn’t we function okay before they were enacted? Were people dying in the streets by the thousands? Was crime rampant in every city and town? We were all at risk from threats unseen or unrecognized by ordinary citizens? Did we really require all this legislative action to make our lives liveable? I think not.
And the laws passed by Congress are only the beginning. The laws give authority to agencies and departments to craft “regulations” implementing the laws. And as vast, complicated and unknowable as the laws themselves are, the regulations are a virtual Mt. Everest of bureaucratic complexity which is impossible for an average citizen to understand let alone comply with. According to CNSNews.com, “Over the past three years, the bound edition of the Code of Federal Regulations has increased by 11,327 pages – a 7.4 percent increase from Jan. 1, 2009 to Dec. 31, 2011. In 2009, the increase in the number of pages was the most over the last decade – 3.4 percent or 5,359 pages.”
We not only face a flurry of laws pouring forth from Congress each year, but an avalanche of regulations implementing those laws. According to John Stossel of Fox Business, “The federal government churned out 70,000 pages of new rules last year regulating small business, making it nearly impossible for entrepreneurs to succeed. The laws and regulations are passed to keep everyone safe, but Stossel says we need to junk most of the rules and let businesses do what they want. The well intended actions by the government are stifling growth and hampering innovation.”
Remember, these are regulations strangling “small business,” not the gigantic corporations which it is so trendy to vilify these days. These are regulations that affect your local hair salon, hardware store, and auto mechanic. And we all pay for them, in the form of increased costs to those businesses which are ultimately passed onto us, the consumers. And are our lives noticeably safer, better, or more efficient because of all these new laws and regulations? Was life for each of us so difficult in 2010, or ’11 or even ’12 because of too few laws and regulations? Few if any would answer that question in the affirmative.
Who among us are clamoring for new laws, rules and regulations, which have apparently become the measure for a productive Congress? And who among us would consider passing more laws and more regulations to be the measure of a productive Congress? The 112th Congress, you decide: the worst or the best ever?