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Washington Says Merry Christmas With 80,000 Pages Of Regulation

There may be a federal war on coal in the ground, but Washington has plenty of coal for your Christmas stocking. The Federal Register—where federal agencies’ daily rules, regulations, notices, guidance documents, bulletins and other “dark matter” accumulate—just topped 80,000 pages for 2015.

80,206 in fact.

2015 is on track to be an all-time record year by December 31, because the highest count ever was 81,405 in 2010, and the second-highest was 81,247 in 2011.

The Register is not a precise measure of regulatory activity, but it is one of the few metrics in a largely unaccountable regulatory enterprise.

Rules in the Federal Register vastly outstrip the number of public laws, which, unlike regulations, are actually passed by Congress and signed by the President, as that pesky Constitution intended.

Laws each year number a few dozen; but agency rules have always topped 3,500. So far this year, we stand at 3,236 rules and regulations among the Federal Register’s pages.

As the nearby chart shows, of the seven highest ever Federal Register page counts, six have occurred under President Obama. President Bush’s last year, 2008, was a big one. But the overall level of rulemaking and activity is considerably higher under president Obama and his “pen and phone.”

These rules accumulate, and they rarely decrease. The record-setting pace of past years makes that accumulation even more worrisome for economic recovery, job creation and entrepreneurship. When you’re complying with bureaucratic decrees, you’re not working or producing wealth or hiring.

The House of Representatives has passed several piece of legislation to roll back the stream of unchecked regulation, but the Senate has not been helpful, refusing to force Obama to veto anything and justify his actions.

So, this year’s Christmas gift from Washington seems to be larger – and more burdensome – than ever before.