Today is the last working day of 2010 which means the last edition of the 2010 Federal Register came out this morning. The final unadjusted page count is 82,589 pages. That’s the third highest ever.
Page counts are typically highest in years when power changes hands. This year was no exception. The two other highest unadjusted page counts occurred when Carter handed off to Reagan, and when Clinton handed off to Bush. The Bush-Obama handoff featured the largest-ever adjusted page count, 79,435.
This time, the spike happened with only the House changing parties. The next few years will tell us a lot. 2010’s high page count may have been a combination of this year’s ambitious legislation plus a midnight rush to get the White House’s regulatory wish list in place before the other team can block it.
Or, as in the past, it could be that we have reached a new, permanent plateau of frenzied federal activity.
I’m hoping for the former. But the Republicans in Congress are no friends of limited government, so one never knows. They will reliably oppose anything the other team comes up with. But as the Bush years showed, they’ll also vote for the exact same policies so long as it’s their team that’s proposing them. This is not a recipe for fiscal or regulatory health.