The Never-Ending Story

Can the feds really roll back regulations?


Earlier this year, the House voted to require federal agencies to conduct cost-benefit analyses before issuing new regulations. But can Congress actually cut federal regulations, which analysts estimate cost $430 billion a year? The record is not exactly promising. In 1935, the Federal Register, the volume that lists Washington's regulatory mandates, was a quick read at 4,000 pages. By 1980, the book of big government came in at an all-time high: 87,000 pages. Under Reagan, the Register slimmed to 48,000 pages in 1985, but then started bulking up again almost immediately. It currently stands at over 64,000 pages.

"If you stacked…each of the Federal Registers from the past twelve years on top of each other, you could build a tower…the height of the Washington Monument," writes the Cato Institute's Stephen Moore in Government: America's #1 Growth Industry.