NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Obama Oversees Expansion of the Regulatory State

August 26, 2013

President Obama has overseen a dramatic expansion of the regulatory state that will outlast his time in the White House. The reach of the executive branch has advanced steadily on his watch, further solidifying the power of bureaucrats who churn out regulations that touch nearly every aspect of American life and business, says The Hill.

Experts debate whether federal rulemaking has accelerated under Obama, but few dispute that Washington, for better or worse, is reaching deeper than ever before into the workings of society.

  • Obama famously signaled his intent to use the machinery of government to further his policy goals after the 2010 elections, declaring: "Where Congress won't act, I will."
  • Since then, the administration has pressed ahead unilaterally on several fronts, including immigration, gun control, cybersecurity and sentencing guidelines for drug offenses.

Meanwhile, new federal rules are accumulating faster than outdated ones are removed, resulting in a steady increase in the number of federal mandates. Data collected by researchers at George Mason University's Mercatus Center shows that the Code of Federal Regulations, where all rules and regulations are detailed, has ballooned from 71,224 pages in 1975 to 174,545 pages last year.

While Republican lawmakers have scored victories in the messaging battle over regulations, they say proponents of a more activist government are winning the war.

  • Taken separately, the public tends to support individual regulations.
  • A Gallup poll earlier this year found that 82 percent of Americans either believe the government is doing the right amount or needs to do more to protect the environment, while two-thirds say they would support stricter standards for food sold in public schools.

Obama has responded to businesses' concerns with a regulatory "look-back" aimed at scrapping old rules on the books. Howard Shelanski, the administration's regulatory chief, told Congress last month that the effort had turned up hundreds of regulatory reform proposals, just a few of which could save up to $10 billion.

To be sure, the explosive growth in federal rule-making did not begin with the Obama White House. The 13,000 rules finalized during the president's first term, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS), were slightly fewer than those published during former President George W. Bush's first term.

Source: Ben Goad and Julian Hattem, "Obama Oversees Expansion of the Regulatory State," The Hill, August 19, 2013.


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