Dow just crashes through 25,000. Congrats! Big cuts in unnecessary regulations continuing.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 4, 2018
Unsurprisingly, this is driving some commentators insane.
"Trump's Deregulatory Binge Makes the Bush Years Look Like Stalinist Russia," runs the headline in The Daily Banter, a website that was "started in 2007 when Editor in Chief Ben Cohen got fed up with watching the corporate news not doing its job properly," and that further claims "not do viral content" or "trick readers with misleading headlines." (Cohen's misleading subhed, by the way, begins: "The Bush years were characterized by a deregulatory binge that saw deep cuts to virtually all aspects of government with little to no reasoning behind them," despite the fact that people who actually study this stuff will inform you that Bush increased the reach, budget, and staffing of the administrative state—including on financial regulation—at a far greater clip than his Democratic predecessor, while overseeing an eight-year government spending bender.)
An infinitely better reported, yet ultimately even more unintentionally amusing effort came in Monday's New York Times, which contained plenty of now-hold-on-there sentences like "The evidence is weak that regulation actually reduces economic activity or that deregulation stimulates it," and "There is little historical evidence tying regulation levels to growth," and "Regulatory proponents say, in fact, that those rules can have positive economic effects in the long run, saving companies from violations that could cost them both financially and reputationally."
Why is that funny? Because much of the rest of the article is composed of quotes and data from actual business humans about why they're investing so much more money during the Trump presidency. Stuff like, "That [regulatory] burden has slowed down economic growth, it's slowed down investment in infrastructure [in the past]. And what we've seen over the last year is a big deregulatory environment." The preponderance of feel-good evidence is such that the Times headlined the piece "The Trump Effect," and began it with these two almost startlingly upbeat paragraphs:
A wave of optimism has swept over American business leaders, and it is beginning to translate into the sort of investment in new plants, equipment and factory upgrades that bolsters economic growth, spurs job creation — and may finally raise wages significantly.
While business leaders are eager for the tax cuts that take effect this year, the newfound confidence was initially inspired by the Trump administration's regulatory pullback, not so much because deregulation is saving companies money but because the administration has instilled a faith in business executives that new regulations are not coming.
As you can imagine, this conclusion by the Gray Lady could not stand. "The front-page story is so egregious," thundered Think Progress, "that one of the the paper's leading columnists, Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, eviscerated it in a series of tweets on Tuesday morning."
You should always take bold assertions of political cause and economic effect with massive grains of salt, particularly at a time when almost the entire global economy is doing pretty well in unison. You can, however, make at least some preliminary measures of Trump's regulatory reform activities. And what you see there will indeed make a progressive recoil and a libertarian smile.
As the year closed out last week, the deregulators over at the Competitive Enterprise Institute took a look at the final page- and regulation-count in the 2017 Federal Register. This is what they found:
The calendar year concluded with 61,950 pages in the Federal Register […]
This is the lowest count since 1993's 61,166 pages. That was Bill Clinton's first year, and his own lowest-ever count.
A year ago, Obama set the all-time Federal Register page record with 95,894 pages.
Trump's Federal Register is a 35 percent drop from Obama's record, set last year.
Bush and Reagan had lower Federal Register page counts than Trump; but every president since has easily outstripped Trump. […]
[T]he Federal Register closed out with 3,281 final rules within its pages.
This is the lowest count since records began being kept in the mid-1970s.
Emphases in original. To be sure, those number-counts don't tell you about quality or size of impact. For some of that, here's a useful Daily Signal list of the administration's 10 most significant regulatory moves.