Bush did well in his initial handling of the attacks on 9/11, some excellent work in Europe over the weekend, and may get credit rather than blame in Iraq if things stabilize and we are able to pull out efficiently. But there are also continuing attempts to steer the economy as it becomes downright sloppy, which can only involve spending more money.
The Bush administration is often portrayed as paring back government regulation. Many liberals, for example, blame lax regulation for the weakened economy.
But President Bush’s tenure has hardly been marked by decreases in the federal regulatory burden. In fact, reports Heritage’s James Gattuso, “net regulatory burdens have increased in the years since George W. Bush assumed the presidency.”
On President Bush’s watch, the government has dramatically increased the regulatory footprint. Here are a few statistics that should give us pause:
- $28 billion—estimated cost of new regulations imposed during the Bush administration. Almost $12 billion was imposed in 2007 alone.
- $17.9 billion—increase in spending on regulatory agencies, a 44 percent increase over 2001 levels, adjusted for inflation.
- 145,816—pages in the Code of Federal Regulations, the listing of government red tape, an increase of 4,500 pages over 2001.
- 72,090—pages in the 2007 Federal Register, a listing of proposed, new and revised regulations, rules and so forth.
- 72,000—number of new employees at regulatory agencies since 2001, a 41 percent increase.
There were some regulatory bright spots, Gattuso reports. Twenty-three major rule changes reduced the regulatory burden—but this is outweighed by the 74 major changes that increased the burden.
Gattuso concludes with a warning that regulations often increase during the last year of a presidency. “Policymakers should be on guard to prevent this surge in the short run,” he argues. “In the longer run, they should adopt sensible reforms to ensure that both new and old rules are thoroughly vetted to ease the burden of this regulatory tax on Americans.”
With nine months remaining in the Bush administration, how will his presidency be remembered? Will he be remembered alongside Reagan or Hoover? Personally, I have mixed feelings, especially with the incessant need of both Democrats and Republicans wanting to grow the government. So we'll see if Bush has the sense here to try to turn it around.