Regulations imposed by the Obama administration are the most expensive in American history, according to a new report by the Heritage Foundation. These countless rules and provisions—requirements that aren’t passed by elected officials but instead implemented by bureaucrats as they enforce Congressional laws—increased private sector regulatory costs by $122 billion annually, and they continue to cost the U.S. economy severely under the Trump administration. (In contrast, the George W. Bush administration increased the private sector’s regulatory burden by $68 billion, or roughly half of the increase seen in the Obama era.)Donald Trump: King of Deregulation?
The $122 billion figure may shatter records, but it’s part of a growing trend that took off in the 1960s. During the end of the Eisenhower administration (1952-1960), the combined budget for all regulatory agencies totaled only $533 million ($3.4 billion in today’s dollars), and little more than 57,000 people were employed by the agencies. Today, the combined annual budget of regulatory agencies’ is a staggering $70 billion, and the federal government employs over a quarter million people full-time.
This means that over the past 58 years, after adjusting for inflation, government spending on regulations has increased 20-fold.
“Since January of this year, we have slashed job-killing red tape all across our economy,” the president said. “We have stopped or eliminated more regulations in the last eight months than any president has done during an entire term. It’s not even close.”And you can be sure the "Deep State" is fighting tooth and nail against him.
It seemed a characteristic bit of Trumpian magniloquence—he’s not only a boffo deregulator, he’s the best ever! Still, it was a remarkable claim. Trump has overseen more deregulation than George W. Bush or Ronald “government is the problem” Reagan?
But, measured by at least one significant standard, Trump’s claim is true. Patrick McLaughlin of the Mercatus Center, a free-market-oriented think tank at George Mason University, applies innovative research techniques to the study of regulation and the economy. He recently analyzed the output of regulatory restrictions promulgated in the last several presidencies, going back to Jimmy Carter.
McLaughlin found that there have been periods in some presidencies when regulatory output slowed or declined—in several years of the Reagan presidency, for instance, and in 1996, when “reinventing government” was part of Bill Clinton’s election pitch. But over the full terms of each recent president, including Reagan, regulation increased, according to McLaughlin. So far the increase in regulatory restrictions under Trump has been near to zero.
“So in that sense, the president may be right,” the economist reports. “There may not be a net increase in regulations so far under him, and since there was a net increase in every four-year term for every preceding president, going back to the ’70s, then I think that could be a safe statement.”