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Government Executive Editor in Chief Tom Shoop, along with other editors and staff correspondents, look at the federal bureaucracy from the outside in.

I’m Not a ‘Big Government, Crazy Liberal,’ Obama Insists

President Obama addresses the National Governors Association on Feb. 22, 2016. President Obama addresses the National Governors Association on Feb. 22, 2016. White House photo

As President Obama’s second term draws to a close, he’s not exactly taking a victory lap. But he is making a concerted effort to challenge the perception that he’s a lover of big government who has spent his time in office seeking to expand the federal footprint.

On Monday, the president insisted in a question and answer session at a National Governors Association gathering that he in fact took a measured approach to the role of government in the economy -- if only to save himself and his administration from creating too much work for themselves.

Obama’s remarks came in the context of a discussion of regulatory reform, in which he said he was open to trimming unnecessary rules, and that he didn’t really want that many in the first place:

If any of you doubt my claim that we have actually eliminated a whole bunch of regulations, we can give you a whole manual. [OMB Director] Shaun Donovan knows because I’ve charged him with this. …

I do not believe in regulation for regulation’s sake -- contrary to rumor.  This idea that somehow I get a kick out of big government is just not the case.  The truth of the matter is, if something is working without us being involved, we’ve got more than enough to do without getting involved in it.  We really do.  It’s not like I’m waking up every morning thinking, how can I add more work for me. I don’t think that way. ...

I should mention, by the way, when I was coming up back in the ‘80s, when I was a law student, cost-benefit analysis was considered a really radical, conservative idea.  And this administration has been more vigorous in applying cost-benefit analysis than any prior administration, including the one that just preceded me.  I mean, we have been very stringent and very tight, and our numbers all check out when it comes to the costs and the benefits that we apply to these tests. …

So for those of you who think that I’m just a big government, crazy liberal, we’re actually -- we crunch some numbers around here.  We take it very seriously.  

It’s doubtful that Obama changed a lot of his minds with his protestations, but he certainly made it clear that when it comes to his legacy, he'd rather it not be summarized as “big government liberal.” 

Watch Obama's remarks below:

Tom Shoop is vice president and editor in chief at Government Executive Media Group, where he oversees both print and online editorial operations. He started as associate editor of Government Executive magazine in 1989; launched the company’s flagship website, GovExec.com, in 1996; and was named editor in chief in 2007.

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