The Deregulator Who Wasn’t

Washington Examiner columnist Conn Carroll refutes President Barack Obama’s attempt to blame the nation’s ongoing economic problems on his predecessor. In a recent interview, Obama tried to portray the Bush administration as a deregulatory free-for-all. The reality, however, is that Democrats and Republicans are not that far apart in their shared failure to restrain the federal regulatory behemoth.

Love him or hate him, Bush did not preside over some great era of deregulation. Quite the opposite, in fact. During Bush’s term, money spent by regulatory agencies increased 44 percent, from $27 billion in 2001 to $44.9 billion in 2007. The number of people employed by federal regulatory agencies rose by 41 percent from 172,000 in 2001 to 244,000. And the Code of Federal Regulations grew by more than 4,500 pages.

According to the Small Business Administration, in 2000, the regulatory burden inflicted on businesses was $4,463 per employee. By 2008, that number had almost doubled to $8,086. Whatever caused the financial crisis, it wasn’t Bush-era deregulation.

Unfortunately, Bush wasn’t the first president to let regulatory agencies run wild, and Obama won’t be the last, as CEI’s Wayne Crews shows in his annual survey of the federal regulatory state, 10,000 Commandments. The 2012 edition is due out soon. (Spoiler alert: The growth of government continued unabated last year.)