Reality ruins another GOP talking point

It’s one of those observations that Republicans repeat so often, it’s often just assumed to be true: President Obama and his big-government agenda have imposed a wave of regulations that’s overwhelming society and crushing the economy.

The notion that regulations are hurting the economy has already been so thoroughly debunked, it’s safe to conclude that anyone who repeats it is not to be trusted. But there’s another angle to the talking point that’s equally important: Obama hasn’t approved massive new regulations.

President Barack Obama’s “tsunami” of new government regulations looks more like a summer swell.

Obama’s White House has approved fewer regulations than his predecessor George W. Bush at this same point in their tenures, and the estimated costs of those rules haven’t reached the annual peak set in fiscal 1992 under Bush’s father, according to government data reviewed by Bloomberg News. […]

Obama’s White House approved 613 federal rules during the first 33 months of his term, 4.7 percent fewer than the 643 cleared by President George W. Bush’s administration in the same time frame, according to an Office of Management and Budget statistical database reviewed by Bloomberg.

I don’t recall the squeals from the right about job-killing regulations strangling the economy in 2003. Perhaps I missed it.

Michael Livermore, executive director of the Institute for Policy Integrity at the New York University School of Law, told Bloomberg the regulatory issue is “getting picked up and talked about, but not for any good reason.”

In fairness, it’s worth noting that the cost of the regulations is slightly higher under Obama than Bush, but adjusted for inflation, Obama’s regulations are still far less costly than rules approved under George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan.

For that matter, it’s also worth emphasizing that federal government regulations are not necessarily bad things. There’s no need to concede the premise of the conservative argument here — Cass Sunstein, the head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at the White House, told Bloomberg we’re talking about rules that help ensure healthier children, safer roads, and fewer industrial accidents, which in turn offer societal and financial benefits.

Still, taken together, every element of the Republican argument is demonstrably false. The GOP talking point is predicated on the notion that there’s been an unprecedented wave of new regulations, undermining the economy, and harming the country. None of this is even remotely true.

Ideally, this would lead Republicans to pick some other talking point, but (a) these folks rarely let reality interfere with a favored argument; and (b) with Obama already having approved massive tax cuts, the GOP doesn’t have anything else to talk about.