Small Business Regulations: Obama Red Tape Exceeds Bush Level

As we noted last week, President Obama has issued nearly half again as many “major,” $100-million regulations during his six years as President as George Bush did in his final six. (Obama had 407 over the period, Bush had 277).  

However, when it comes to regulations impacting small business, Obama also comes out as the bigger regulator.

We learn a little bit about the impact of individual federal regulations on small business thanks to the so-called Regulatory Flexibility Act, which requires agencies to scrutinize such burdens more closely. As the Federal Register notes

The Regulatory Flexibility Act requires that agencies publish semiannual regulatory agendas in the Federal Register describing regulatory actions they are developing that may have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities.

The nearby table shows the number of rules annually requiring a Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (RFA) since 2003. The six years 2003-08 belown to Bush, while 2009-14 obviously belong to Obama.

Despite President Obama’s claim to have issued fewer rules than his predecessor, rules impacting small business have actually grown.

Bush vs. Obama: Rules Requiring a Reg Flex Analysis


Bush (03-08)

Obama (09-14)

























The Bush total number of rules requiring a Regulatory Flexibility Analysis during his final six years was 2,268, averaging 378.

Obama’s total rules impacting small business significantly enough to require a Flexibility Analysis over six years is 2,453. His average is 409.

While not as dramatic, this mirrors Obama’s higher six-year average of 68 “major”  (generally, $100 million-plus impact) rules annually vs. Bush’s 46.

Obama has delivered costlier rules overall, as well as more rules that impact smaller entities, than his predecessor.

Another 300 rules in the 2014 Unified Agenda of federal regulations were otherwise deemed by agencies to affect small business in 2014, up from 278 in 2013, but to not rise to the level of requiring an RFA. These have dropped from 2012’s 384, owing, it appears to changes in reporting requirements in the Unified Agenda that likely should be reconsidered

Bottom line, Obama’s level of rules requiring small business Regulatory Flexibility Analysis is unsurpassed in this century.

Regulatory liberalization is one of the pre-requisites for economic recovery and job creation.