There's nothing much to look forward to with the incoming administration. But I certainly won't miss the current administration. It's hard to think about what the Bushies haven't messed up.
Veronique de Rugy, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center, has penned a devastating critique of the Bush regulatory record. He is worse than Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter! Writes de Rugy:
Some people still seem to think Republicans take a hands-off approach to regulation, probably because the party is always quick to criticize the burdens regulations place on businesses. But Republican rhetoric doesn't always match Republican policy. In 2007, according to Wayne Crews of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, roughly 50 regulatory agencies issued 3,595 final rules, ranging from boosting fuel economy standards for light trucks to continuing a ban on bringing torch lighters into airplane cabins. Five departments (Commerce, Agriculture, Homeland Security, Treasury, and the Environmental Protection Agency) accounted for 45 percent of the new regulations.
Since Bush took office in 2001, there has been a 13 percent decrease in the annual number of new rules. But the new regulations' cost to the economy will be much higher than it was before 2001. Of the new rules, 159 are "economically significant," meaning they will cost at least $100 million a year. That's a 10 percent increase in the number of high-cost rules since 2006, and a 70 percent increase since 2001. And at the end of 2007, another 3,882 rules were already at different stages of implementation, 757 of them targeting small businesses.
Overall, the final outcome of this Republican regulation has been a significant increase in regulatory activity and cost since 2001. The number of pages added to the Federal Register, which lists all new regulations, reached an all-time high of 78,090 in 2007, up from 64,438 in 2001.
Even more worrisome is how agencies implement these rules. In a recent study titled "Homeland Security and Regulatory Analysis: Are We Safer Yet?," Jerry Ellig and Jamie Belcore of George Mason University's Mercatus Center (where I work) looked at the regulatory analysis behind the Department of Homeland Security's regulations. They found that the agency conducted shoddy, incomplete regulatory analysis; never tried to find regulatory alternatives; and didn't bother arguing that there was a market failure or a systemic problem that might warrant government intervention. According to Homeland Security's own estimate, its rules cost the economy more than $4 billion a year; the actual cost is likely to be much higher.
The conservative movement has a lot of work to do to retool itself. But there is a simple starting point. Don't be like the Bush administration.
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