The Good News: Congress Has Enacted Record-Low 52 Laws This Year. The Bad News? Congress Has Enacted 52 Laws This Year.


USA Today reports that

Congress is on track to beat its own low record of productivity, enacting fewer laws this year than at any point in the past 66 years.

It's a continuing slide of productivity that began in 2011, after Republicans recaptured the House majority in the 2010 elections, and the ability to find common ground has eluded the two parties while the legislative to-do list piles up.

The 112th Congress, covering 2011-12, emerged as the least productive two-year legislating period on record, while 2013 is on track to become the least productive single year in modern history.

The horror, the horror! Rarely does a news story unmask the problem with simplistic tallies of efficiency or productivity. Given the thousands of laws and hundreds of thousands of regulations on the books already, why exactly should we egging Congress on further? There's certainly been no shortage of landmark legislation that has passed this century, almost all of it awful from virtually any perspective. The PATRIOT Act, Sarbanes-Oxley, Medicare Part D, TARP, Obama's stimulus (as distinct from Bush's smaller yet equally awful 2008 legislation), Dodd-Frank, The Affordable Care Act—these are ginormous laws whose lasting effects seem to be bankrupting the country and eviscerating all remnants of limited government.

The USAT story quotes an analyst who doesn't see much hope for gridlock to dissipate anytime in the next few years. Which is, I guess, some small crumb for which to be thankful.

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  1. Let us be thankful for this.

    1. This would require one to thank Obama and the Reps and Dems in congress..

    2. Let us be thankful for this.

      I would be if Congress was actually the ones creating most of the new laws.

  2. I don’t believe “productivity” describes what Congress does when it passes laws.

    1. Perhaps we could convince them that repealing laws is productive? Can you imagine how awesome it would be if they were politically rewarded for getting rid of legislation?

      1. Or perhaps if only a minority were required to repeal laws, but a supermajority to pass them.

        1. My father in law suggested a constitutional amendment requiring they repeal three for every one they pass for the next 20 years.

          1. That would mean they would repeal 3 laws like the mohair subsidy in exchange for 1 Obamacare type bill with the kitchen sink of everything else they want to pass included in one omnibus bill.

            90% vote to enact, 10% vote to repeal, all bureaucratic rules and regulations must be passed as laws rather than by fiat, and automatic sunset of every law after 10 years would keep the laws down to a more tolerable minimum.

            1. I like the sunset provision a lot. It would certainly make it into any new constitution I was writing. And no wholesale vote to keep all the current laws expiring. They have to repass and get the executive to sign each one.

              1. A sunset provision has no teeth if they can lump all the laws they want together and renew all at once.

                1. Require renewal every year.

                2. Require that if a law has any defect, whether it be unconstitutional, internally inconsistent, too unclear, or inconsistent enforcement, the entire law is repealed. Makes it a bad idea to lump murder, theft, and assault laws with Sarbanes-Oxley and Patriot Act monsters.

                3. Allow more challenges for defective, ideally by anyone, but at least by any state attorney general.

                1. And no severability – if any part of the law is found unconstitutional/illegal then the *whole* law is deemed so.

                  Another disincentive for them to lump laws into one package for approval.

                  1. Oh, and word-count limits for the size of proposed legislation/regulation.

                    If you can’t spell it out in, say, 30 pages then its too major of a change to go about in a single bite.

                    1. You don’t need either of those. Severability is reflected in what I wrote, that any defect voids the entire law. Word counts naturally lead to internal inconsistency which alone has to be grounds for being defective and void.

  3. One law per week is far, far too many. I dream of a Congress composed of nothing but Rob Ford clones.

  4. “The PATRIOT Act, Sarbanes-Oxley, Medicare Part D, TARP, Obama’s stimulus…Dodd-Frank, The Affordable Care Act – these are ginormous laws whose lasting effects seem to be bankrupting the country and eviscerating all remnants of limited government.”

    Out of one side of their mouths, they say that the problem is obstructionism. We need to get rid of the filibuster!

    Out of the other side of their mouths, they say that you should never let a crisis go to waste.

    The American people are the dumbest people in the world when they’re scared.

    1. Apparently we’re always only one law away from utopia.

  5. SCHIP expansion should be on that list.


  6. What if we counted by pages rather than number of bills? What would the chart look like?

    1. I mean can you imagine how much we’re wasting on paper and printer ink?

  7. America is an anarchic dystopia. When will Congress realize how desperately we need their guidance?

  8. Three cheers for gridlock!

  9. I’m curious as to the quality of the laws passed in a given year. USA Today and other media outlets only seem to care about the quantity.I guess they never heard of the sausage analogy.

    1. Most people in the media and journalism are far too stupid to understand anything more complicated than “more is better”.

  10. I guess they never heard of the sausage analogy.

    or Dodd-Frank.

    1. Frank knows the sausage (analogy) quite well.


  11. Not that I’m surprised, but it is interesting to note that every election year (1968 possibly excepted) had more laws passed than the intervening off-election years.

  12. the legislative to-do list piles up

    I am not going to wallow in that article, but… I shudder to think what is on the so-called “to-do list” that surely exists only in the writer’s fevered imagination.

    1. Well, somebody somewhere did not ask permission to do something, so there’s that.

    2. I’m pretty sure every member of Congress has a to-do list. The horrific aggregate of those lists, if all passed, would destroy the country.

    3. Well, the menace of doorknobs are still unbanned.

  13. I have asked progs and other authoritarians why exactly it is a good thing to pass more and more laws. I never get an answer. It appears that in their eyes, we are always just a few more laws away from utopia.

  14. Here’s something Congress could do: Investigate the administration of existing laws.

    For instance, it seems that Obama has been joking about auditing his enemies, and then the IRS audited his enemies.…..mark-steyn

  15. I’m sure they are more than making up for it in new regulations.

  16. It’s not fantasy football smack talk, it’s Digiorno


    ? DiGiorno Pizza (@DiGiornoPizza) December 1, 2013


  17. “Congress Has Enacted 52 Laws This Year.”
    OK, but how many has Obo enacted on Friday afternoons by royal decree?

    1. That’s the point — the Teathuglicans in Congress made him rule by executive fiat.

  18. Amazing. The Broncos came back to win after that horrific start. They are extremely dangerous.

    1. Yeah , but John Fox is still your coach (run three times up the middle, super conservative prevent and give up TD bomb anyway) and Peyton can’t be fooled into thinking playoff games are regular season games so, they’ll still be watching SB from home.

  19. Think Progress discovers what would be an equitable minimum wage: $21.72

    Since racial minorities are over-represented among the minimum wage workforce, raising the minimum wage to just $10.10 would lift 3.5 million people of color out of poverty.
    The stagnation and collapse of minimum wage purchasing power has helped drive the divergence between the wealthiest and poorest segments of the U.S. workforce. As minimum-wage jobs have provided less and less stable economic footing for working people, the wealthiest sliver of the country has seen astronomical gains in their compensation. If instead the federal minimum wage had grown at the same rate as one-percenter earnings, it would sit at $22.62 per hour today ? 212 percent higher than the current wage floor.
    A 212 percent raise may seem outlandish, but previous research indicates American workers have just about earned it. Worker productivity has more than doubled since 1968, and if the minimum wage had kept pace with productivity gains it would have been $21.72 last year. From 2000 to 2012 alone workers boosted their productivity by 25 percent yet saw their earnings fall rather than rise, leading some economists to label the early 21st century a lost decade for American workers.

    Got to love prog logic: a 50 percent increase in productivity must mean that the proletariat is working 50 percent harder!

    1. If you are working a minimum wage job and are over 25, you are, by definition, a failure.

      Raise the minimum wage? No, fuck you, get a better job!

      1. You have to wonder if it ever occurs to these people that raising minimum wage will not put minimum wage earners on even footing with everyone else.

        As soon as you put the floor at $20 everyone else working professional jobs is going to demand a raise as well.

        Putting these individuals right back where they started.

        1. Putting these individuals right back where they started.

          If they are lucky. If their productivity isn’t worth the new wage, they get laid off.

          1. In which case, they’ll learn there is a *true* ‘Minimum Wage”: $0.00/hr.

        2. That increasing the minimum wage is inflationary is a myth. Professionals will NOT demand higher wages. There are no studies showing any prices after minimum wages, only right wing propaganda.

          Reality has a well known liberal bias.

          1. Damn? the processor cut out the </prog logic

          2. Wishful thinking has a well known liberal bias. FTFY

            How is “you can keep your insurance” going?
            Green energy subsidies?
            War on Drugs?
            War on poverty?
            Federal intervention into education?
            Gun regulation highest in areas with highest crime?

            One last one:
            How is the, “we just need the RIGHT person in charge to make our powerful, top-down government less abusive, corrupt, and incompetent” working out for you?? Maybe Hillary is the REAL right person. Saint Obama was just a test run perhaps?

            The appropriate answer to all of those rhetorical questions is: Fuck you, you ignorant, self righteous, pretentious, controlling, intolerant assholes.

            I will also accept the sound of your katana being plunged into your heart as a desperate attempt at reclaiming a modicum of dignity and honor in your everlasting shame.

      2. I asked progs to find the error in this logic: if you raise the minimum wage, you make it more expensive to hire people. If you make it more expensive to hire people, fewer people will get hired. All I get in response is “derp da derp puts money in the economy derpy derpidy derp stagnant wages tum te teedily tum te ter.”

        1. The standard response is that giving them more money would work in the long run because the purchasing power of the worker would increase. They then invoke the ghost of Henry Ford and plug their ears when someone mentions that inflation is a thing.

      3. I get the feeling that if someone went there and gave him $100 to get his certificate, he would quickly find another excuse for his poverty.

      4. If you are working a minimum wage joblong-term unemployed and are over 25, you are, by definition, a failure.

        If you have a minimum wage job, at least you are trying… sort of.

      5. Screw that, raise it. Fire the incumbents and hire college degree holders. THAT I’d like to see pan out.

      6. “If you are working a minimum wage job and are over 25, you are, by definition, a failure.”

        This is not totally true. There are a handful of exceptions.

        Mothers who are just returning to the workforce after spending 10+ years raising children for example.

        However in all cases where someone over the age of 25 might find themselves having to take a minimum wage job they are temporary situations so I would amend your statement to…

        “If you are working a minimum wage job for more than 18 consecutive months and are over 25, you are, by definition, a failure.”

    2. Of course most of the productivity is through technological advances. . And automation and technology will push out even more of the work force when labor is inflated artificially. Progressives say they believe in evolution, so I wonder why they haven’t figured out the labor force has to evolve to keep earning money. Graduating from high school doesn’t mean you can work at the mill for 40 years and then retire on a pension.

      1. “And automation and technology will push out even more of the work force when labor is inflated artificially.”

        Automating a Micky D’s doesn’t look too difficult.

      2. And why is that 1950s-era factory life the benchmark for a sound economy, at least as libs seem to see it? The flipside to having high rates of turnover is the high degree of worker mobility it entails and a fairly heterogeneous work history, both facets of my life I value highly. Working a single job one’s entire life, subject to the vicissitudes of the national economy and praying the plant is never shuttered, sounds like a very unsound condition to labor under.

    3. …”raising the minimum wage to just $10.10 would lift 3.5 million people of color out of poverty.”…
      Someone does not understand that $/=wealth.
      I’ll bet s/he figures those living in Weimar Germany were RICH!

      1. Because laws are magic spells that never backfire or have unintended consequences! /derp

        1. I’m half convinced that the GOP should just jump on the bandwagon and agree to, hell, a $50/hr minimum wage.
          The adjustment would be a mess, but in not too long, the poor would still be poor but they’d be paying the top IRS rate.
          Then the Dems could propose a minimum wage of $100/hr and we could watch it all over again.

          1. Sounds sort of like smoke all these cigars stunt from Brewster’s Millions. The problem with that approach is I fear the progs have reached Zimbabwe-levels of economic illiteracy. Sam Seder was blabbing the other about how he couldn’t understand why gold was ever used as money instead of iron.

          2. I agree. We should jump in with both feet into the deep end.

            We’ll have Paul Krugman tell us what a “high enough” minimum wage would be to stimulate the economy and the GOP and the Democrats will pass it with near unanimity and we’ll get our economic experiment.

            One of the upsides would be that we could get rid of coins…

  20. The less laws, the more productive.

  21. Amazon Women on the Move: All-woman skydiving group sets record

    Sixty-three women from around the world linked hands as they plunged head first toward the Arizona desert on Saturday, shattering the female vertical formation skydiving record, the U.S. Parachute Association said.

    The skydivers leaped from three aircraft at 18,000 feet near Eloy, about 65 miles southeast of Phoenix, said Nancy Koreen, the association’s director of sport promotion.

    The women were from countries that included the United States, Canada, Australia, Mexico, France, Norway, Sweden and Germany.

    The record came on the 12th attempt. It shattered the all-women head-first record set by 41 women in 2010, Koreen said.

    “Everyone has to perform together, which is what makes the record so challenging,” Koreen, who took part in the successful attempt, told Reuters.

    Judges of the Swiss-based Federation Aeronautique Internationale verified the record attempt at the site, she said.

    Vertical skydiving is regarded as more difficult than freefall, belly-to-earth skydiving. Skydivers hurtle toward the earth at higher speeds in a position that makes control more of a challenge.

  22. It seems almost absurd we have an entire branch of government to make new laws. Theoretically, one must admit that at some point, all necessary laws would be enacted. Even by Cicero’s time, “more laws, less justice” was already an old proverb.

    It is hard to believe the Founding Fathers did not seem to give much consideration to this. Jefferson did at one point suggest to Madison that laws sunset after 19 years, but Madison dissuaded him of the notion, as he did for several good ideas.

    1. Well, the big task is the power of the purse, and budgets really do need to be done on a regular basis.

      (I did once work out a model constitution on the theory that you could start with the common law and dispense with all true legislative functions; the closest equivalent was the constitutional amending procedure. But it still needed people to make the budgets.)

      1. Whose job is it, constitutionally speaking, to create a budget? I know that Congress is charged with collecting taxes and spending money, and common sense says that any large enterprise (even small ones, such as families) needs an income and spending plan — i.e., a budget. But at whose feet does the constitution lay the chore of making said plan?

  23. … and isn’t there a pattern of fewer people voting?
    Tell me there is! I NEED it.
    Let government be cancelled on account of lack of interest.

    1. New law – if no-one on the ballot can get more votes than 50% of the voting age population (registered or not) then that position goes unfilled.

  24. 52 laws in a year gives Congress about a week to thoroughly consider each one. If these bills were fairly short and to-the-point, I would think that a week per bill, start-to-finish, would provide a comfortable window for deliberation. Of course, many of these are gargantuan bills, which can barely be read, much less go through committee examination and floor debates, in just a week. Still, it does seem as if some improvement has occurred, similar, I suppose, to the amount of improvement over at the Obamacare website.

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