In our debt-ravaged country, Cost of Government Day actually falls much later in the year than it seems.
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I’m not suggesting that no regulation serves a legitimate interest. But many don’t, while numerous others are ludicrously inefficient and costly, even if they theoretically serve a sensible end. Rules like Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, which the administration plans to push ever skyward, represent both bad objectives and bad means. In this case, the government arbitrarily decides on auto gas mileage, and does so in a manner which pushes people into smaller cars, resulting in more accident deaths. Heckuva job, Barack!
State and local spending adds 44 days to COGD. This burden fell a bit over last year, in part because Congress voted to give cash that it didn’t have to governors and legislatures to spend. But with Washington facing increasing pressure to cut spending, the good times of bountiful federal gifts for state lawmakers likely are over. Noted Feldman: “When this injection of federal dollars finally dries up, taxpayers in the states will be on the hook to pay for the expansion of state spending programs upon which acceptance of the ‘stimulus’ funds was contingent.”
Finally, state and local regulation accounts for 28 days. Admittedly, this is not as painful as when federal bureaucrats show up and declare: “Have no fear, I’m from Washington and I’m here to help.” Still, just when Americans think they are done paying for government they find themselves in the crosshairs of a county or city busybody. And, noted Feldman, “2011 regulations will consume 21.2 percent of net national product which, compared to 16.1 percent ten years ago in 2001, is a 31.6 percent increase in the regulatory burden within only 10 years.”
Obviously, the burden caused by states and localities varies across America. While the national average is August 12, residents of Connecticut are in bondage to government until September 10, a month later. New Jersey comes in at number two, with a COGD of September 6. New Yorkers work for government until August 30. Residents of Maryland labor until August 20.
At the other end is Mississippi, with a COGD of July 19, almost a month earlier. The COGD in Tennessee is July 20, in South Carolina is July 23, and in New Mexico, South Dakota, and West Virginia is July 26.
Two states fall on the national average: Nebraska and Virginia.
Although the best and worst states tend to hold their positions over time, there is movement within the ranks. Relative to the national average, Alaska, North Dakota, Florida, Louisiana, and Nebraska saw the sharpest increase in their COGD. In contrast, Georgia, Idaho, South Carolina, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Vermont most dramatically reduced the burden of government.
All Americans deserve to live in states with earlier COGD’s. But that will require a conscious effort to shrink government. As Feldman concluded: “The path to an earlier Cost of Government Day requires lasting spending reductions. These reductions must go hand-in-hand with repealing regulatory policies and laws that discourage innovation and competition. Whether the government’s hand is in cars or energy production, American economic recovery yearns for independent markets where competition provides better, more affordable goods and services.”
Summer is speeding toward its conclusion, and only now are Americans finally paying off their bills for government. Their labor, rather like that of the serfs of old, is being held hostage for the benefit of faraway lords — in this case, politicians in Washington and 50 state capitals. It is time for the people to say no more!