While the perception among Republicans is that the financial industry, and the country in general, has been overregulated since the financial crisis under President Barack Obama, especially with the passage of Dodd-Frank in 2010, a recent study indicates that federal regulations have generally soared over the last half century regardless of the president's political party.
Republicans have made some traction in the attempt to roll back Dodd-Frank in the last couple of months. Those in the GOP ranks hope that a Republican will be elected president so he can deregulate what they believe is an overregulated financial industry and an overregulated country in general.
The data presented by Charles Murray of the American Enterprise Institute, however, shows that over the last 50 or so years, federal regulations have spiked whether a Democrat or Republican is in office, with two exceptions: Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.
Murray points out there as an initial spike in regulations during the JFK years and another one during the Carter Administration due to the increased number of pages in the Federal Code of Regulations. But then there was another spike during the Nixon years that saw the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
"After the Carter years, the slope of the trendline was shallowest in the Reagan and Clinton administrations (with the Clinton result concentrated in his second term, when a Republican House imposed a moratorium on some new regulations)," Murray said. "The increase during the Obama years remained on the same slope as the one during George W. Bush’s years. And if you’re thinking about the Democrats’ most egregious regulatory excess, Dodd-Frank in 2010, recall that Sarbanes-Oxley passed in 2002, when Republicans controlled both the House and the Senate."
Murray said that while presidents do not bear a lot of the blame for not reducing regulation, at the same time, he said electing a Republican president has not helped. The one exception to that was Reagan, who decreased real per capita discretionary domestic spending despite inflation being low the first few years of his administration. Discretionary spending also decreased during the eight years that Bill Clinton was in office.
Obama wasted a "huge amount of money" on TARP and other "failed stimulus programs" during his first term, the first few years of the recession, according to Murray. But domestic spending under Obama returned to the trend established from 1952 to 2008 by 2012.
Murray said this was not to say the increases in spending and regulation are acceptable; he says they are in fact "traces of a metastasis in federal power that in my view has gutted the American project."
"Nor is any of this intended to say that presidential elections don’t make any difference," Murray said. "But amidst the wringing of Republican hands about the awful things that will happen if (Hillary) Clinton is elected, a little historical perspective may lower their blood pressure just a bit. And they might want to reflect on what Trump’s rhetoric portends for both trendlines in a Trump presidency."