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Outdated Laws Drive Stupid Government Spending


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Outdated-Laws-Drive-Stupid-Government-Spending.aspx#page1The Fiscal Times:


March 26, 2013


Maybe our undisciplined government spending isn’t the problem; maybe it’s our stultifying legal system. That has been the message of Philip Howard for years. The author of “The Death of Common Sense: How Law is Suffocating America” and founder of bipartisan reform coalition Common Good wants to banish out-of-date regulations that drive up costs and perpetuate senseless programs. Today, with legislators scrambling for ways to bring order to our financial house, perhaps his call for legal reform will pierce the cacophony of squabbling interest groups and taxpayers.




The truth, of course, lies somewhere in between. There are crucial programs and there are many examples of waste. The latter often spring from laws and regulations written to address past problems but which remain on the books far beyond their useful lives. A recent Wall Street Journal editorial said that the Supreme Court is reviewing a Great Depression program aimed at stabilizing raisin prices. The law mandates that regulators set prices by governing supply, forcing growers to sell to the government at a steep discount – even today. How much are we spending to maintain the Raisin Administrative Committee? Do growers need price supports? Nobody knows; that’s the point.




Even President Obama has from time to time championed cutting the web of rules and regulations that enslaves our lives. In his 2011 State of the Union address, the president drew laughs from noting, “The Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they're in freshwater, but the Commerce Department handles them when they're in saltwater. I hear it gets even more complicated once they're smoked." He promised to “give [voters] a government that's more competent and more efficient.”


What did his efforts produce? His 2013 budget did indeed include proposed discretionary cuts amounting to $7.9 billion, consolidations of agency functions yielding $395 million and savings of $159 million. Total discretionary savings? $8.5 billion. Including mandated cuts, the total swells to $24 billion – less than one percent of outlays. Not enough to move the needle.



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