You are here

Obama Cements Status as King of Regulatory Bloat

Today marks a milestone for the one brandishing the Mighty Pen and Phone.  

The Federal Register hit 78,648 pages today. The Register is where the federal agencies (50, or 400-plus, depending upon who’s counting) publish their rules, regulations, and other notices and errata. You are bound to obey those rules, so hope you’ve been keeping up.

President Obama has no peer in Federal Register bloat, today setting records compared to both himself and all past presidents. Of the seven highest-ever annual page counts since the Federal Register first began in 1936, six of them belong to Obama as of today.

Today’s count of 78,648 pages marks the sixth highest-ever page count, but it’s not even the end of the year yet.

George W. Bush’s highest count ever was 79,435 in 2008, which at the time was easily the all-time-record. It still stands as the third-highest count today.

Barring a Christmas miracle, Obama will top Bush’s record by Christmas Eve at the latest, and he easily swamps past presidents. Indeed, Obama stands in a class by himself. The above chart shows all past presidents’ highs (and the year their peak occurred) compared to the Obama Nation.

Bill Clinton’s highest page count ever was 74,258 back in 2000; the first president George Bush’s highest ever 57,973 in 1991. As may be seen, prior to President Richard Nixon, the Federal Register barely “registered” compared to today.

But back to today’s jarring reality: it is looking increasingly likely that by year-end, Obama will top his own, and the all-time, high of 81,405 pages.  

I’ve always maintained that you can’t tell a whole lot about the regulatory burden from page counts alone, since onerous rules can be short, and minor rules might be long, and because the Federal Register can contain so much extraneous matter.  

But the sheer magnitude of the Federal Register and the constant threat of the pen and phone seem to be changing things. There remains no corner of the economy or our personal lives on which the Federal government has not staked a claim either explicitly or via regulatory dark matter, so the heft of the Register is no longer something that can be shrugged off or ignored.

This president still has a year to go to set more records.