Bush the Non-Regulator

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Former Reason Editor Virginia Postrel has an interesting gloss on recent attacks on George W. Bush for not passing enough regulation.

She points to a NY Times graphic that shows the incremental costs of new regulations passed since 1987. It shows that Dubya (averaging $1.6 billion for '02 and '03) is way below the average set by Reagan ($8.1 billion), Poppa Bush ($8.5 billion), and Clinton ($6.2 billion; it's also interesting to note that Clinton is well below either of his two predecessors). She writes,

After nearly four years, both the WaPost–in a three-part series, no less–and the NYT, in a more-modest single article have suddenly discovered that the Bush administration has taken a dim view of regulation….

The reporters take the attitude that any restriction approved by "activists" and disapproved by "business" must be good–end of debate….

Taken as a whole, this latest media campaign offers an answer to an oft-asked question: Why on earth would a libertarian vote for George W. Bush?

That ">NY Times graphic supplies a good answer.

Whole thing here.

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  1. Am I really first?

    “it’s also interesting to note that Clinton is well below either of his two predecessors”

    This doesn’t surprise me all that much. Gingrich’s Congress didn’t like regulation as much as Tip O’Neill’s did.

  2. Am I really first?

    “it’s also interesting to note that Clinton is well below either of his two predecessors”

    This doesn’t surprise me all that much. Gingrich’s Congress didn’t like regulation as much as Tip O’Neill’s did.

  3. So when the cost of regulation goes down under Bush, it’s thanks to the president. But when it goes down under Clinton, it’s because of the Congress.

    Gosh, if only we’d elect a GOP president *and* and Republican Congress, government would be back to its constitutionally-prescribed size in just a few months!

  4. Ryan, you were really first, and then you were really second.

  5. Looking at the NY Times graph (fixed Reason’s broken URL), I wonder why imposed regulation costs increase over each presidency, peaking in the last year before election. Are regulators trying to appease their corporate contributors or their voters?

  6. So when the cost of regulation goes down under Bush, it’s thanks to the president. But when it goes down under Clinton, it’s because of the Congress.

    It’s because of Congress in both cases (which was Democrat-controlled under Reagan and Bush 1, Republican under Clinton and Bush 2).

    Bush hasn’t vetoed any legislation; it’s a given that he isn’t the one responsible for the lack of new regulations. However, Bush does deserve credit inasmuch as he hasn’t pushed for much in the way of new regulations, either.

  7. It goes without saying that when it comes to regulatory damage, quality matters as much as quantity. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which Bush signed in 2002, become an enormous pain in the ass for every publicly-traded company. The costs and hassles related to complying with Sarbanes-Oxley have been so high that some companies have actually cited it as a reason for going private.

    Clearly, Bush wasn’t the one spearheading the movement to create this law, which was conjured in the midst of post-Enron hysteria. But as with so many other economically illiberal ideas given a thumbs-up by Congress, he didn’t have the guts to stand in its way.

  8. Bush hasn’t vetoed any legislation; it’s a given that he isn’t the one responsible for the lack of new regulations. However, Bush does deserve credit inasmuch as he hasn’t pushed for much in the way of new regulations, either.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t executive agencies also issue regulations, as a way of implementing legislation? Congress passes the Widget Automation Safety Transportation Enforcement Act (WASTE Act) saying “All widgets must be made using chemicals approved by the EPA based on worker safety” and then EPA writes a rule saying “We find that these chemicals are safe and none others”. Until EPA writes the rule the precise cost to businesses is unknown.

    I don’t know whether the study mentioned here only refers to legislative action, or only executive action, or the combination of both. But it could be that the executive branch actually deserves some of the credit here.

  9. Eric II,

    There is also new “regulation” of campaign contributions to consider (as long as we’re considering the qualitative aspects of his Presidency’s regulatory regime).

    Nick Gillespie,

    How did they determine what was and was not a “regulation?”

  10. I knew there was a reason to vote for Bush; I couldn’t think of it myself, but I knew there had to be a reason.

    P.S. Even ignoring what Gingrich did once he became speaker, just showing Rostenkowski and Foley the door in ’94 helped Clinton’s spending record. Surely Clinton’s record would have been much worse if he’d gotten his way on health care.

  11. thoreau,

    That’s really the only way a regulation is issued. However, the EPA doesn’t merely issue a regulation – there are shitloads of administrative processes that one has to undertake before that happens, and there are varying methods by which to promulgate one, including what’s called “reg-neg” – negotiated rulemaking (where the government and the parties of interest hash out a rule via some negotiated process).

  12. Eric II

    He had no choice. If W had vetoed Sarbanes-Oxley, his complicity with Enron would have been established for the left. This is interesting considering that the major Enron shenanigans happened under Clinton.

  13. Is it fair to say what W lacks in regulating he more than makes up for in spending?

  14. Nick Gillespie,

    Are you stating that the graph demonstrates that the Bush administration has created less regulations than past administrations? Because that is NOT what this graph looks. Or are you simply making an inference based on the graph?

  15. Also, I think if actually read the articles, they are slightly more nuanced than Virginia Postrel spins them as.

    Furthermore, statements within the NYT story belie the notion that there has been less federal regulation under Bush:

    There’s been more federal regulations, more regulatory notices, than previous administrations,” said Trent Duffy, a White House spokesman, though he attributed much of that to the new rules dealing with domestic security.

    So yes, maybe his regulatory actions have been less burdensome to business, but is that all I should be worried about? Posterel is mute on this question.

  16. “So yes, maybe his regulatory actions have been less burdensome to business, but is that all I should be worried about?”

    Maybe not all you should be worried about, but given the environment post 9/11, if you think you wouldn’t have a goodly number of national security regulations under any administration, you are mistaken. The Democrat alternative would likely have been minor changes to Bush level non business regulation combined with above historical average levels of business regulation. I say this because of the uniform need to ‘do something’ in the wake of a terrorist attack and the very strong need for Democrats to ‘do something heinous to business’ in the wake of Enron.

    Everything else aside, I am very thankful that we did not have a Dem congress and a Dem executive when Enron broke. The backlash would have been a nightmare for the country.

  17. Jason

    Are you sure Enron would have even broken with a Dem Prez? Given how tight they were with Clinton I’m can’t be sure they wouldn’t have gotten bailed out. “For the WORKERS”, of course.

    It was Rubin who called Treasury to do something. Of course, he was just looking out for Citibank …oops…I mean THE WORKERS.

  18. Jason Ligon,

    Maybe not all you should be worried about, but given the environment post 9/11, if you think you wouldn’t have a goodly number of national security regulations under any administration, you are mistaken.

    Don’t mischaracterize my statement please.

  19. What about the $5 billion expected cost of Oxley Sarbanes?

  20. I own a bookshop, and thanks to Section 215 of the Patriot Act, my business is more regulated than ever.

    A bill to amend Section 215, co-sponsored by Ron Paul, was almost successful in the House of Representatives, until the Republican leadership put the pressure on members to change their votes and defeat the amendment.

    And of course, therre are different regulations imposed by President Bush on the people of Iraq, in some ways all too similar to the regulations we “liberated” them from.

  21. I apologise in advance.

    Virginia Postrel has an interesting gloss

    The first time I ever heard of Reason it was from the very glossy lips of Ms Postrel, who was holding forth on something or other on tv.

    Though not of the whatchamacallit persuasion, I was fascinated by her intensely red lipstick and found her thoroughly… hot.

    I subscibed the next day.

    Since she seems to have disappeared from my screen, I’m delighted to hear that she still has that interesting gloss.

  22. If there’s one thing we should all be able to agree on, it’s that Virginia Postrel is pretty hot.

  23. Swamp Justice writes:

    Looking at the NY Times graph, I wonder why imposed regulation costs increase over each presidency, peaking in the last year before election. Are regulators trying to appease their corporate contributors or their voters?

    Rulemaking is typically slow in the first couple years of any administration because of change of personnel and because new administrations often want to change the regulatory agenda. There is typically some pressure to get rulemaking done before a potential change in control of the executive branch, because once a regulation is final it is harder to undo.

    Incidentally, if the numbers under Bush 43 look dramatically different from the past three administrations — two out of three of which were Republican — query whether it’s because (i) this administration is so different from those administrations or (ii) there’s something funny about the numbers. The figure for 2001 in particular strikes me as bizarre.

  24. raymond m and Steve,

    Do the authorities have your addresses?

    Down here in the ‘hood, I get postcards every other day from Sheriff Simon Lies giving me the addresses of sexual predators.

    But, as my excellent mentor, Larry Flint, advises: Relax! It’s only SEX.

  25. Why is no one stating the obvious?

    Could it be, that after all these years, we are finally beginning to run out of things to regulate?

    Hmm.

  26. Now John Kerry is (surprise) joining the chorus of condemnation, suggesting that the administration’s anti-regulatory stance is nothing more or less than corruption

    We definatley don’t want Kerry to “report for duty” without a Republican congress to exert countervailing force.

    Gene Berkman:

    “I own a bookshop, and thanks to Section 215 of the Patriot Act, my business is more regulated than ever.”

    That sounds hideous; could you please elaborate?

  27. “Sheriff Simon Lies”

    Man, could any one MAKE UP such a great name for a political hack?

  28. Speaking of regulation; Pick up the September issue of Cato’s Regulation magazine… One great article after another!

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