‘I Didn’t Have Time to Write a Short Bill, So I Wrote a Long One Instead,’ Part II

Back in December, Nick Schulz helped put the size of the 2,074-page healthcare bill into some historical context by comparing its length to some previous bills that rank among the most consequential in U.S. history, like the 82-page Social Security Act of 1935 and the 74-page Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Now that Congress has passed the “Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act,” it might be a good time to compare the 2,319-page financial reform bill (245 pages longer than the healthcare bill) to the previous bills listed below (and see graph) that are considered among the most consequential legislative acts for banking and finance.

1. Federal Reserve Act (1913) – 31 pages.

2. Glass-Steagall Act (1933) – 37 pages.

3. Interstate Banking Efficiency Act (1994) – 61 pages.

4. Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (1999) – 145 pages.

5. Sarbanes-Oxley Act (2002) – 66 pages.


Like Nick said, the numbers pretty much speak for themselves, but I can’t resist making just a few comments:

1. It took only 31 pages of legislation in 1913 to create the nation’s central bank and establish the entire Federal Reserve System, with a Board of Governors and 12 district banks, as well as creating a single new U.S. currency. In comparison, just the table of contents (15 pages) and the list of definitions (11 pages) in the Dodd-Frank bill is almost as long as the entire Federal Reserve Act, and the total Dodd-Frank bill at 2,319 pages is almost 75 times longer.

2. One of the most major acts of banking reform in U.S. history, the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, which overhauled America’s banking system following 9,000 bank failures in the early 1930s, took only 37 pages of legislation or 1.6 percent the number of pages in the Dodd-Frank bill.

3. The combined size of the five previous major banking bills listed above comes to only 340 pages in total, or about one-seventh the size of the whopping 2,319-page Dodd-Frank bill.

4. Many critics of the 66-page Sarbanes-Oxley Act argued that it could more accurately be called the “Accountants’ Full Employment Act of 2002.” Harvey Pitt, former SEC chief, has already referred to the 2,319-page Dodd-Frank bill as the “Lawyers’ and Consultants’ Full Employment Act of 2010,” and adds that “this legislation fixes nothing, accomplishes nothing, yet promises everything.”

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