Editorial: 2012 full of unnecessary regulations

2012 was a boom for new government regulations. Unfortunately, a lot of them aren't likely to do anyone any good, except perhaps as employment insurance for those bureaucrats already employed or hired to enforce them.

The biggest regulation offenders on a Top 10 worst list, compiled by the conservative Heritage Foundation, range from a simplification of home mortgage rules codified in 1,099 pages, to new Energy Department rules governing dishwashers.

And don't forget Mayor Michael Bloomberg's rationing of soda pop to force New Yorkers to consume less sugar or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' mandate that all health insurance policies include coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization procedures and contraceptives with no exception for faith-based organizations whose religious principles conflict.

It will be interesting to watch that fight play out in court, where the government will spend lots of your tax dollars defending the mandate.

The new rules can come with hefty price tags. For instance, new nutrition standards for school lunches — much protested by the kids who will be forced to eat from the menu — are estimated to cost $3.4 billion over the next four years. And stricter emissions rules for coal- and oil-fired utilities may cost electricity consumers $9.6 billion annually despite the fact less expensive technology is available in many cases.

Meanwhile, the United States finds itself with a growing number of people staying home on disability.

Despite vast improvements in medicine and health care, despite far fewer people working in dangerous industrial jobs, and despite adjusted mortality rates much lower than in the past, the number of people receiving Social Security disability checks is at 8.6 million.

The number of disabled Americans without jobs was 1.27 million higher in November 2012 than it was in November 2011.

These newly disabled are part of the larger number of Americans who have left the labor force altogether since the recession, and who don't seem to be coming back.

About 88.9 million Americans are out of the labor force, 2.4 million more than a year ago and 11.4 million more than in 2006.

According to Edward Glaeser, economics professor at Harvard University writing for Bloomberg News, either work has become less attractive or disability insurance has become more attractive — and available.

That is not to say that many people who are on disability are not legitimately disabled and in need of help. But the approval process and society itself have become more accepting of people receiving Social Security disability benefits even if they have no visible ailment.

Solutions? The professor suggests reforming the tax code to provide stronger incentives to work, through the earned-income tax credit and reductions in the payroll tax for poorer Americans.

It's important that America return to being a country whose people take pride in working and don't expect a nanny state to take care of them from womb to tomb.

As our leaders work on cutting spending, they should take a look at axing overbearing rules that take money out of the economy while they ensure those who really need help are able to get it.

— Albuquerque Journal

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