Paperwork --10 Billion Hours and Counting
By Thomas J. Donohue, President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
March 21, 2006
As the time businesses spend meeting government paperwork requirements reaches a staggering 10 billion hours annually, the U.S. Chamber is urging Congress to more strictly enforce paperwork reduction laws already on the books.
Unfortunately, current paperwork reduction laws are being routinely flouted by government bureaucrats. Meanwhile, America's small businesses are being crushed under a mounting paperwork burden, which is needlessly sapping their time, energy, and productivity.
The Paperwork Reduction Act of 1980, the key law in this area, was intended to simplify and reduce the duplicative, onerous, and often unnecessary information collection requests from the federal government. When it failed to stem the growing tide of paperwork burdens, Congress amended it in 1995 to require mandatory reductions in paperwork from federal agencies.
Specifically, the agencies were required to reduce their collection burdens by 10% in fiscal years 1996 and 1997, and then by 5% in each fiscal year from 1998 through 2001. Meeting these goals would have reduced the amount of federal paperwork by 35% by the end of fiscal year 2001. Unfortunately, those goals were never met.
It's past time for Congress to put some real teeth into the enforcement of these laws. Here are two ideas: First, Congress should consider cutting funding or reducing staff for agencies that fail to meet the clear requirements of the law. Nothing offends government bureaucrats more than a cut in their funding or a rein on their authority. Second, Congress should adopt "look-back" provisions that would require agencies to periodically review their existing regulations and determine whether they should be continued, modified, or rescinded.
The Chamber forcefully made these recommendations when it testified recently before the House Committee on Government Reform.