Last Updated:November 25 @ 06:13 am

The 10 worst regulations of 2012

By Diane Katz and James Gattuso

McClatchy/Tribune - During 2012, virtually every aspect of American life was subjected to government meddling, ranging from how many calories you consume to how efficient your dishwasher is.
These rules affect us in a variety of ways. Most increase the cost of living, others hinder job creation, and many erode our freedom.

Not all regulations are unwarranted, of course. But increasingly, the rules imposed upon us by the government have less to do with health and safety and more to do with lifestyle -- substituting the judgment of bureaucrats for our own.

Which are the worst? There is no objective standard to measure such things, but here is our own take on 2012's bottom 10:

(10) Mortgaging the Future: New mortgage disclosure rules were released in July by the newly-created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, with a stated goal of simplifying home loans. The rules run an astonishing 1,099 pages. The net result of this and similar rules? Fewer consumer mortgage lending options and increased costs.

(9) Tracking Your Travels: In December, the Department of Transportation proposed that electronic data recorders, popularly known as "black boxes," be required in most cars starting in 2014. The stated goal is to collect more information about car accidents. But this spooks privacy advocates, who warn that federal bureaucrats could misuse this information.

(8) Essential Choice Cutbacks: Under the Obamacare "essential benefits" rule, health insurers will be forced to cover health care services, that the government deems essential, whether you want to buy them or not. The net result will be to increase health care costs, increasing the burden on consumers, employers and taxpayers.

(7) Instant Union: In April, the National Labor Relations Board issued new rules that shorten the time allowed for union-organizing elections to between 10 and 21 days. This leaves little time for employees to make a fully informed choice on unionizing, threatening to leave workers and management alike under unwanted union regimes.

(6) Don't Let Them Eat Cake: The Department of Agriculture in January published detailed new nutrition standards for school lunch and breakfast programs. More than 98,000 elementary and secondary schools are affected -- at a cost exceeding $3.4 billion over the next four years. The new rules sparked protests, and even a few hunger strikes, from students nationwide.

(5) Cleaned Out: Regulators admit that the new Energy Department rules governing dishwashers will do little to improve the environment. Rather, proponents claim they will save consumers money. But they will also increase the price of dishwashers, and only about one in six consumers will keep their dishwasher long enough to recoup the cost.

(4) Soda Socialism: On Sept.13, at the behest of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the New York Board of Health banned the sale of soda and other sweetened drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces. New Yorkers apparently are still allowed refills, at least for now. No word on how many NYC cops will be moved from crime prevention to monitor the city's soda fountains.

(3) Sticker Shock: Adopted in August, these new automobile mileage rules require a whopping average fuel economy of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. Sticker prices will jump by hundreds of dollars. Regulators argue that the fuel savings will make up these costs. Whether consumers want to make such a tradeoff doesn't matter. The government has decided for them.

(2) Increasing Energy Costs: The Environmental Protection Agency in February finalized strict new emissions standards for coal- and oil-fired electric utilities. The benefits are highly questionable, with the vast majority being unrelated to the emissions targeted by the regulation. The costs, unfortunately, are certain: estimated to be $9.6 billion annually. The regulations are likely to undermine energy reliability and raise energy costs across the entire economy.

(1) Conscience Denial: The Department of Health and Human Services on Feb. 15 finalized its mandate that all health insurance plans include coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization procedures, and contraceptives. The mandate allows no exception for church-affiliated schools, hospitals and charities whose religious principles conflict with the mandate. To date, 42 lawsuits representing more than 110 plaintiffs have been filed challenging this restriction on religious liberty as a violation of First Amendment.

As busy as regulators were in 2012, don't look for them to rest next year. Already in the pipeline are dozens of new rules covering health care, finance, global warming and more. It is anybody's guess who will win next year's prize. The only safe bet is that consumers will lose.



Diane Katz is research fellow in regulatory policy at The Heritage Foundation, where James Gattuso is senior research fellow in regulatory policy. Readers may write to the authors in care of The Heritage Foundation, 214 Massachusetts Avenue NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; Web site: Information about Heritage's funding may be found at

This essay is available to McClatchy-Tribune News Service subscribers. McClatchy-Tribune did not subsidize the writing of this column; the opinions are those of the writers and do not necessarily represent the views of McClatchy-Tribune or its editors.


© 2012, The Heritage Foundation

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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  1. arwenusaComment by arwenusa
    December 27, 2012 @ 12:50 pm

    A line from the first movie in the Lord of the Rings trilogy runs through my mind frequently these days: “Evil was allowed to endure.”

    As a result of evil’s victory, to paraphrase the Democrats: The vultures have come home to roost.

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  2. fabianComment by fabian
    December 27, 2012 @ 2:03 pm

    Very depressing and it’s just the beginning.

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  3. msgtazComment by msgtaz
    December 27, 2012 @ 4:04 pm

    What is sad is that is not all of them. When Government can tell you to do something that you would not do, it is called Communisum. I for one do not live in Russia and do not like it at all. We are headed for a revolt in this country and it will be likely a bloody one and I am scared and upset. The people of this country better wake up and soon.

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  5. rzraickComment by rzraick
    December 28, 2012 @ 7:38 am

    Arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Our government is corrupt and traitorous. The parties don’t matter. They are two heads of the same monster.

    We are headed for disaster on all levels and in every way.

    It is time for a new government, which obeys the law.

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  7. mysticComment by mystic
    December 28, 2012 @ 2:39 pm

    Dishwashers? Really? This is going to save the planet and our economy? Wow..the loonies are most certainly outta the bin on this one.

    Soda’s… roll eyes…come on. School lunches…what a joke. Anyone who has had a public school lunch can tell you it’s worse than a ‘happy meal’… total joke. Wonder whose pockets this regulation will line?

    Cars to have a minimum of 54 mpg? We already have tech that will allow for 90+ mpg…yet isn’t ‘allowed’ on domestic cars. *sigh*…again, have to wonder whose pockets this lines.

    Mortgages: Over a thousand pages of new regs on home loans…cuz ya know, the government did so well with the running of Freddie and Fannie. Maybe…just maybe, had Clinton not signed in the death nail to the home mortgage loan industry back in the mid 90′s, we wouldn’t need new regs that do even more damaged to a dead and dying industry. Just saying.

    Energy Cost: Well, all I can say about that one is President Obama did say ‘necessarily utiltie cost will rise’. He’s gonna actually do one thing he said he would do..hit us in the pocket book and put in green Cap and Trade legislation that will near kill the American pocket book. So I’m guessing wood stoves are gonna come back into style? Gads…

    At last count, the regulation list was over 1.400…with I’m sure a few more to follow with Fienstiens gun legislation.

    Regulations won’t save us. Regulation and more Federal over-site has never ‘fixed’ any problem our nation has faced. this is to line pockets of those who got Obama et al into the White House…. and open doors to those who have been drooling over the prospect of Change…ridding us of Hope.


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    • FreeDameComment by FreeDame
      January 2, 2013 @ 5:10 pm

      “So I’m guessing wood stoves are gonna come back into style?”

      Unfortunately, they are now planning on a special “tax” for every household that heats their home with wood. Gotta cover that “carbon footprint,” don’cha know?

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  8. empty pocketsComment by empty pockets
    December 30, 2012 @ 12:14 pm

    I’ll also begin with a movie/book quote this brings to mind: “Just because we CAN do something doesn’t mean we SHOULD.” (“Jurassic Park”)

    Just as bad is being able to do something needed, something you know SHOULD be done…and doing nothing…bringing another well known quote to mind, paraphrasing: evil has succeeded because good men…did nothing to stop it.

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  9. FreeDameComment by FreeDame
    January 2, 2013 @ 5:08 pm

    I am mostly infuriated by the fact that the VAST majority of these laws, punishable by fines and/or imprisonment, are not technically “laws” but merely “regulations.” Any law which results in a possible fine (or “tax” or “fee” or whatever they’re calling it today) is only Constitutional if it comes from an elected body. How many of Obummer’s regulatory “Czars” were elected, or even confirmed by our elected officials? ZERO. Every regulation we have been saddled with is highly suspect and, quite probably, unConstitutional.

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