Opinion

Who’s the bigger regulator, Bush or Obama?

Photo of Wayne Crews
Wayne Crews
VP for Policy, Competitive Enterprise Institute
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      Wayne Crews

      Wayne Crews is vice president for policy and director of technology studies at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a former scholar at the Cato Institute and former Senate and FDA staffer. He can do a <A HREF="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xqDg7_f3Ka4">handstand on a skateboard</A> and loves <A HREF="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=68UkojnnVhU">motorcycles</A>.

      Wayne's work explores the impact of government regulation of free enterprise: Areas of interest include antitrust and competition policy, safety and environmental issues, and information age concerns like privacy, online security, broadband policy, and intellectual property. Wayne is the author of the yearly report, <A HREF="http://cei.org/cei_files/fm/active/0/10KC_2008_FINAL_WEB.pdf">Ten Thousand Commandments: An Annual Snapshot of the Federal Regulatory State</A>, and he co-authored the recent reports <A HREF="http://cei.org/pdf/5705.pdf">This Liberal Congress Went to Market? a Bipartisan Policy Agenda for the 110th Congress</A> and <A HREF="http://cei.org/pdf/4911.pdf">Communications without Commissions: A National Plan for Reforming Telecom Regulation</A>. Prior to the assorted government bailouts now taking place, he wrote the report <A HREF="http://cei.org/pdf/6425.pdf">Still Stimulating Like It’s 1999: Time to Rethink Bipartisan Collusion on Economic Stimulus Packages</A>.

      Wayne is co-editor of the books <A HREF="http://www.catostore.org/index.asp?fa=ProductDetails&method=&pid=1441156">Who Rules the Net: Internet Governance and Jurisdiction</A> (2003) and <A HREF="http://www.catostore.org/index.asp?fa=ProductDetails&pid=1441127">Copy Fights: The Future of Intellectual Property In the Information Age</A> (2002). He is co-author of <A HREF="http://www.catostore.org/index.asp?fa=ProductDetails&method=cats&scid=30&pid=1441099">What’s Yours Is Mine: Open Access and the Rise of Infrastructure Socialism</A> (2003), and a contributing author to others. He has published in the Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, Forbes, Communications Lawyer, the International Herald Tribune and others. He has made various TV appearances on Fox, CNN, ABC, CNBC and the Lehrer NewsHour, and his regulatory reform ideas have been featured prominently in such publications as the Washington Post, Forbes and Investor’s Business Daily. He is frequently invited to speak, and has testified before congressional committees on various issues.

      Earlier Wayne was a legislative aide in the United States Senate to Sen. Phil Gramm, covering regulatory and welfare reform issues. He was an Economist and Policy Analyst at Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation, and has worked as an economist at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and as a Research Assistant at the Center for the Study of Public Choice at George Mason University. He holds an M.B.A. from William and Mary and a B.S. from Lander College in Greenwood, South Carolina. He was a candidate for state senate as a libertarian while at Lander.

      Here are links to Wayne’s CEI <A HREF="http://cei.org/articles_for_author/41">articles</A>, <A HREF="http://cei.org/studies_for_author/41">studies</A> and media citations.

During his State of the Union address Tuesday, President Barack Obama got applause for acknowledging that some federal regulations are outdated, unnecessary or costly.

He went on to claim, “In fact, I’ve approved fewer regulations in the first three years of my presidency than my Republican predecessor did in his.”

That’s technically true: President George W. Bush did issue more final rules during the first three years of his presidency than President Obama has during his first three years. The data I’ve posted here at the Ten Thousand Commandments page, and in the chart below, make that fairly clear. President Bush wasn’t much of a de-regulator.

But President Obama’s claim that he’s less of a regulator than Bush is misleading, assuming the Federal Register online database is correct, particularly with respect to its alarming aggregation of significant rules. (There are differences between final rule tallies from the online database and figures supplied by the National Archives and Records Administration, but those differences are small.)

What really matters isn’t the number of new rules per se, but the number of new rules that are significant — meaning they are anticipated to have a $100 million or more impact on the economy (and that impact is almost always negative) — and the number of new rules that will have major effects on small businesses. According to the Federal Register, the Obama administration has issued far more of these regulations than the Bush administration did (see chart). So the story is not as simple as “Bush issued more regulations.”

Ultimately, Congress needs to be made more accountable for these regulations. The REINS Act approach, proposed by Kentuckians Rep. Geoff Davis and Sen. Rand Paul, would have Congress perform at least an expedited vote on all economically significant rules.

Wayne Crews is vice president for policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a Daily Caller contributor and author of the annual Ten Thousand Commandments.