A key attack line in President Obama's campaign stump speech these days is to claim that the country has tried Mitt Romney's economic policies already, and they were a dismal failure.
Romney, he says, wants to do two things: Cut taxes for the rich and massively deregulate the economy.
"The truth is," Obama says, "we tried (that) for almost a decade, and it didn't work."
Bush-era tax cuts and deregulation, he argues "resulted in the most sluggish job growth in decades" along with "rising inequality, surpluses turned into deficits, culminating in the worst economic crisis in our lifetimes."
There's just one problem. Obama's got his history wrong.
First, Bush was no big deregulator.
In fact, under Bush, the size and cost of the federal government's regulatory machinery increased dramatically, as Bush imposed dozens of major new rules.
Regulatory staffing, for example, climbed 44% during the Bush years, according to a study by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis and George Washington University.
By contrast, regulatory staffing was essentially flat under President Clinton.
Likewise, federal spending on regulations shot up 45% in real terms under Bush, compared with 26% under Clinton.
Obama himself has made the case that regulations climbed rapidly under Bush. "I have approved fewer regulations in the first three years of my presidency than my Republican predecessor did in his," he said in a speech earlier this year.
To be sure, much of the Bush-era regulatory increase came as a result of the government's takeover of airport security in the wake of 9/11. But even excluding that, federal regulatory spending climbed 30% and regulatory jobs jumped 11% under Bush.
In addition, an analysis by the Heritage Foundation found that Bush-era regulations imposed about $30 billion in new economic costs.
One of them, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, imposed vast new rules on the accounting and securities businesses, generating at least 20 new rule makings at the Securities and Exchange Commission. Sarb-Ox has been widely blamed for reducing the number of U.S. initial public offerings.
"Far from shrinking to dangerously low levels, regulation grew substantially during the Bush years," noted Heritage's regulatory expert James Gattuso.
In addition, the banking deregulation, which Obama sometimes blames for contributing to the financial crisis, took place not under Bush but under Clinton, who signed the bill to repeal Depression-era banking rules in 1999.
The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act enjoyed massive bipartisan support, with just eight Senators and 57 House members voting against it.