Pen & Phone Fever: Barack Obama Accelerates the Production of New Regulations

President Obama said he wasn’t “waiting on Congress.” He promised (or threatened) that he had a loaded pen and a loaded phone and he knew how to use them.

But it is not just Obama, there are a lot of phones and pens in the executive branch and they have been working overtime during his administration. From OpenMarket.org:

The annual Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) is the “codification of the general and permanent rules published in the Federal Register by the departments and agencies of the Federal Government.”

The page count for final general and permanent rules in the 50-title CFR seems less dramatic than that of the oft-cited Federal Register, which now tops 70,000 pages each year (it stood at 79,311 pages at year-end 2013, the fourth-highest level ever). The Federal Register contains lots of material besides final rules.

Still, the CFR “Archive-Of-All” is big. Very big. Back in 1960, the CFR contained 22,877 pages in 68 volumes.

The pace picked up. The CFR stood at 71,224 pages by year-end 1975, in 133 volumes.

Now, new data from the National Archives shows that the CFR stands at 175,496 at year-end 2013, including the 1,170-page index. […]

That’s a 146 percent increase since 1975. The number of CFR volumes stands at 235 (as of 2012; the 2013 count remains unavailable for the time being), compared with 133 in 1975.

More recently, at the end of President George W. Bush’s second term (2008), there were 157,974 pages in the CFR.

That means President Obama has added 17,522 pages of regulations in his five years in office; one president growing the regulatory state 11 percent increase in five years.

In his five years in Office, President Obama has averaged 3,504 CFR pages annually.

Meanwhile, Bush’s final four years averaged 2,584 pages; his total eight-year tenure averaged 2,490 pages annually.

As we all know George W. Bush was no small-government conservative and he was no shrinking violet when it came to asserting executive power. But Obama’s Administration has “out-ruled” Bush’s by about a thousand pages of rules a year.

Of course, the way the CFR expanded under Bush and under previous presidents is a big problem. The expansion of the executive branch’s power endangers the system of the Constitution. But Obama’s “productivity” in getting new rules established doesn’t just continue the problem; he amplifies it.

Does anyone really think that a healthy society requires a centralized tax-fed bureaucracy to make this many new rules this fast? Does anyone think that an unhealthy society can be healed by that process?

In a sense, the Obama Administration shows that it believes in salvation by law.