Liberals love to claim the Bush administration has broadly weakened regulations at the behest of corporate interests. And the media lap up these claims. Problem is, the nation’s regulatory burden has grown significantly under President Bush and it looks like the situation is going to get worse in the final months of his presidency.

Many federal regulations are justified, some even necessary for a properly functioning market (like those that reinforce property rights and market mechanisms). Nevertheless, all rules come at a cost, and according to a 2005 study by the Small Business Administration, the cost of all rules currently on the books is $1.1 trillion annually. As Heritage Foundation Senior Research Fellow in Regulatory Policy James Gattuso documents, by almost every measure, regulatory burdens have risen under Bush.

  • Regulatory Budget and Staffing Levels: Appropriations for federal regulatory agencies have increased 44% under Bush from $27 billion to $44.9 billion. Even excluding the federal takeover of airport screeners, the increase in regulatory budgets is still up 30% and non-Transportation Security Administration staff is up 11%.
  • Regulatory Page Counts: In 2007 the Federal Register (the publication all proposed and finalized rules must be published in) had 72,090 pages, higher than any year before 2000. In 2007, the Code of Federal Regulation (essentially the regulatory statute book) had 145,816 pages, more than 4,500 pages longer than when Bush took office.
  • The Number and Cost of Major Rules: Since Bush took office 98 rules have had an economic impact on the United States greater than $100 million. Of those 98, 75 have increased the regulatory burden and 23 have decreased it. More than half of the cost saving rules came from the FCC and SEC, two independent agencies Bush cannot directly control.
  • Cost Estimates: Since Bush took office, more than $28 billion in new regulatory costs have been inflicted on the American people. Only in 2001 when Bush repealed President Bill Clinton’s costly ergonomics rule, did overall regulatory costs decrease.

Historically, costly administrative rulemaking skyrockets in the waning days of a presidency. Under Clinton, $13.1 billion in regulations were promulgated in 2000–more than one-third higher than any other year of his term. The first President Bush was no different. He raised regulatory costs $12.5 billion in 1992. With decisions upcoming on greenhouse grasses and polar bear endangered species listing, the current Bush administration has the potential to out due both of his most recent predecessors. Imprudent action on either front could cost the U.S. economy hundreds of billions of dollars.

Quick Hits:

  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced yesterday that it will evaluate whether four kinds of seals inhabiting Alaska’s Bering Sea should be placed on the endangered species list because of melting sea ice.
  • A Department of Justice indictment alleges that Reps. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) and Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) and ex-Rep. David Bonior (D-Mich.) were pawns of Saddam Hussein’s efforts to stay in power when they accepted a trip to visit Iraq in 2002.
  • Farmers in Argentina continue to strike in protest of new liberal President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner tax increase on grain exports.
  • Iran is asking he United States, Britain, France and Germany to apologize to the country’s leaders and scientists for damaging their reputations through U.N. Security Council sanctions resolutions.
  • Liberals in Mexico are fighting President Felipe Calderon’s efforts to open the government’s oil monopoly to international investment despite dwindling reserves.