Actually, the decline began under President George W. Bush. For 20 years the U.S. had consistently ranked as one of the world’s three freest economies, along with Hong Kong and Singapore. By the end of the Bush presidency, we were barely in the top ten.
And, as with so many disastrous legacies of the Bush era, Barack Obama took a bad thing and made it worse.
During the past four years, the U.S. saw significant declines in nearly all categories of the economic‐liberty index. Most significant — and this should come as no surprise to anyone paying attention — is that the size of government grew substantially, particularly when measured by size of government subsidies and transfers and by government consumption as a share of national consumption.
As recently as 2005, the U.S. ranked 45th in size of government among the 144 nations surveyed. That was bad enough, but it still had us in the top third of the 144 countries surveyed. Today, government has grown dramatically, and our ranking has fallen to 61st place. By the metrics used, the U.S. now has a bigger government than Ukraine or Syria.
The United States has also seen a substantial increase in business regulations, labor‐market restrictions, and barriers to trade. Our standing fell in all those categories, and we have undergone a long‐term deterioration in ranking on property rights as well.