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Trump’s Executive Order on Regulations Is Welcome, But More Is Needed

President Donald Trump followed-up a busy and divisive first week in office by issuing an executive order that takes aim at the federal regulatory state.

Andrew Harrer/SIPA/NewscomAndrew Harrer/SIPA/NewscomSurrounded by a group of business leaders on Monday morning, President Donald Trump paid off one of his campaign promises by signing an executive order telling federal agencies under the president's control to cut two federal regulations for every new rule added to the books.

"If there's a new regulation, they have to knock out two. But it goes far beyond that, we're cutting regulations massively for small business and for large business," Trump said.

Unlike previous attempts to impose similar constraints on federal regulations—like the "one in, one out" proposal from Sen. Mark Warner (D-Virginia) in 2010, which would have required agencies to offset the cost of new regulations by deleting older ones—Trump's executive order does not specify that the regulations deleted must match or exceed the economic impact of those being added.

Overall, though, the executive order specifies that new regulations issued by the federal government in 2017 "shall be no greater than zero."

An emphasis on regulatory reform from the new administration is a welcome development indeed. After another record-breaking year that added more than 90,000 pages to the federal register—if you printed them all out and stacked them up, the pages of the registry would be taller than a brontosaurus—there's no doubt that the federal regulatory state is out of control.

Still, rolling back federal regulations in a meaningful way will require more than this order.

"Regulations have compounded for decades with very little rollback ever taking place, so President Trump's executive order requiring agencies to identify two regulations for elimination, for every one new regulation issued, is both reasonable and a step in the right direction," says Clyde Wayne Crews, vice president for policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free market think tank based in Washington, D.C. "However, it is important to focus on eliminating the equivalent regulatory burden rather than a specific number of regulations."

Last year, for example, Congress passed 211 bills while federal regulatory agencies approved 3,852 regulations, according to CEI, which tracks federal regulations. Including last year's record-breaker, 13 of the 15 longest registers in American history have been authored by the past two presidential administrations (Barack Obama owns seven of the top eight, with George W. Bush filling in most of the rest), according to CEI.

Crews says the only way Trump can ensure long-lasting regulatory reform is to work with Congress. Otherwise, the next president could simply undo any executive orders he signs.

Trump seems to have some congressional support in that aim—as long as he doens't squander his political capital on other issues.

In an op-ed published last week in The Wall Street Journal, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California) outlined a series of regulatory reforms that take aim at the federal bureaucracy. The first step, McCarthy says, is passage of the REINS Act, which would require any new regulations that cost $100 million or more to be approved by Congress before taking effect.

As I wrote earlier this month, the REINS Act would apply only to about 3 percent of all federal regulations, but it would be a meaningful reform because it gives Congress a way to check executive rules with the potential to be particularly harmful.

In other ways, Trump's order isn't as clear-cut as the "one in, two out" phasing might suggest.

According to the order, there are several parts of the government exempted from the new guideline, including anything having to do with "military, national security, or foreign affairs function of the United States." Other exemptions include internal regulations dealing with a federal agency's organization and management. Independent agencies like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Securities and Exchange Commission, which have implemented many of the regulations created as part of the Dodd-Frank Act, passed in the wake of the 2008 economic collapse and often criticized by Trump and others for handcuffing the financial sector of the economy, will also be untouched.

There's other potential problems with Trump's order too. As Franklin Harris pointed out on Twitter, giving federal agencies responsibility over what regulations get cut creates potentially bad incentives. Rather than cutting regulations that serve no purpose, agencies would have an incentive to scrap key regulations that create an argument for keeping those rules.

It's similar to what happens during government shutdowns, when pretty much everything keeps humming along except for national parks—as a way to make a public relations point.

Maybe that will happen here and maybe it won't—hopefully the White House would exercise the power granted by the executive order allowing its Office of Management and Budget to review which regulations will be scrapped.

Either way, if regulatory reform is going to stick, it will require more than just Trump's pen.

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  • hpearce||

    My guess the two that are to be removed will be combined with the new one for a net impact of zero.

  • Ken Shultz||

    If it weren't for Carl Icahn taking the point on this, I might agree.

    He's a results oriented kind of guy, and he's not the sort that would associate his name with horseshit either.

    Color me cautiously optimistic.

    If Trump can ban refugees from certain countries--despite being Muslim--almost anything can happen.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    That was my guess as well. Either that, or the two removed will be old, outdated rules that are no longer really enforced. Which could still be a good thing, to get rid of some of the unnecessary clutter, but it won't really have much real effect. Hopefully I'm just being pessimistic.

  • Don'tTreadOnMeChipper||

    I advocate for a 100:1 ratio....seems like a better chance to make some progress.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Exactly this. Exactly this.

  • SQWRLZ://cdn.panopticon.gov||

    Isn't there legislation against reimplementation of repealed regulations of equal effect?

  • Mookman||

    I am in the last semester of my MBA at a university in DC. For the first two weeks, the professor (who admittedly has an extensive resume that includes working with/under Clinton, Reagan, both Bushes) has spent the first half of each of the two classes thus far railing against Trump and whatever he did or said since class last met. It's not that I mind this necessarily, as he makes plenty of good points, but the tie-in to the course material is peripheral at best. At the current rate, he is on pace to talk about everything he thinks Trump is doing wrong for an entire half of the semester. I'm paying a fraction of the cost to attend (as I am a university employee) so it does not bother me all that much, but I do wonder when some of my classmates who are paying full freight will call out the professor for spending time that people are paying good money for repeating a lot of the points that can be consumed for free in the comfort of their own homes. And people why higher ed is going to shit in a hand basket at such an accelerated rate.

  • Lee Genes||

    Why do you become a professor if not to get the bully pulpit?

  • Cynical Asshole||

    If my "research" on pornhub is any indication quite a few become professors in order to trade grades for hot co-ed tail.

  • Lee Genes||

    +1 grading on a curve

  • Don'tTreadOnMeChipper||

    I have always encouraged "cramming" for an exam...

  • The Grinch||

    I had plenty who didn't climb on their soapbox and that was in psychology. The shitty ones can't help themselves though.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    ...I do wonder when some of my classmates who are paying full freight...

    A lot of the other students may not be paying full freight either though. Most are probably covered by student loans. Some may be there on their employer's dime (since it's an MBA course, I figure maybe some are "working adults" who are there because their company is paying or reimbursing the costs).

  • John Titor||

    I once had a stats prof spend half a class for several weeks complaining about how better German schools are to Canadian ones (unfortunately he didn't realize that he was a shitty teacher (he'd discuss things the most ass-backward way and then get upset when people didn't understand it). I did openly suggest to him one time that if he was going to discuss German-Canadian school differences that he'd at least use statistics to illustrate the point. Oh, the glower I got.

  • Set Us Up The Chipper||

    You need to finish that post, there is a closed parens somewhere in the ether that needs to show up.

  • Bra Ket||

    I had a cantankerous old professor that would rant about global warming alarmists.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Meaningful reform will require the action of Congress, but the worm just turned--and hallelujah--libertarian moment!

  • Not a True MJG||

    if you printed them all out and stacked them up, the pages of the registry would be taller than a brontosaurus

    Those regulations must have stood a thousand miles high.

  • Ken Shultz||

    A brontosaurus was not a thousand miles high.

  • UnCivilServant||

    clearly we needed to use stronger drugs on it.

  • JR Robble Dobbs||

    Yes, when you're not getting the results you want....More Power! Just like those Russians at the Butane refinery. Oh, the pressure has dropped on the outgoing pipeline. Let's increase the pressure. We don't care if a train wreck has cause the pipe to leak and that the released butane is on fire. The pressure's low, our job is to increase it, and increase it we will.

  • Not a True MJG||

    Thank you, Mr. Shultz. You have provided a great service today.

  • Ken Shultz||

    They only got that high when five of them got together and formed Mega-Mechasaurus.

  • PapayaSF||

    "...but more is needed." Well, duh. The guy has only been in office for 10 days.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Likely excuse!

  • ||

    Other exemptions include internal regulations dealing with a federal agency's organization and management. Independent agencies like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Securities and Exchange Commission, which have implemented many of the regulations created as part of the Dodd-Frank Act, passed in the wake of the 2008 economic collapse and often criticized by Trump and others for handcuffing the financial sector of the economy, will also be untouched.

    This part is very bad. I'm happy to see the idea that cutting regulations is going to be on the menu for this administration going forward but exempting internal regulations seems like a cop out from the goal of......reducing regulations.

    The CFPB and Dodd-Frank in general contain volumes of regulations that are stifling small business repeatedly. They should be one of the first on the chopping block and certainly no exempt from chopping.

  • Lee Genes||

    Just spitballing here, but wouldn't a lot of the internal regs be closely tied to union agreements and federal labor laws?

  • Lee Genes||

    I officially hate new year's resolutions. The kids are in swim class and the entire gym is packed. Couldn't even get a lane to do laps.

  • Akira||

    In 4th grade, I made a new year's resolution to refrain from making any new year's resolutions ever again. I've stuck with it for almost 20 years!

  • timeconsumer||

    I love having a gym in my garage for just this reason. Not that your average resolutioner would even consider departing the comfort of the elliptical with a TV built it for the scary, loud, dangerous squat rack. But since most gyms only have 1 all it takes is for a single newb quarter squatting 95lbs for 15 sets of 10 to screw your workout that day.

  • Don'tTreadOnMeChipper||

    But how many chicks in yoga pants are running around? Motivation is a factor in fitness, you know..

  • Jima||

    This executive order seems to me to be mostly a PR effort. In fact, all these executive orders are starting to piss me off in principle, it's the same BS that Chocolate Jesus pulled. If we wanted a system run by executive fiat, we could move to any number of tin pot States, in for example, South America. Fix the fucking system the hard way - by getting legislation passed that removes all the authority all these alphabet agencies have and make Congress responsible for getting shit done. Too much shit to do? Then prioritize the damn work and do what's important. The States can deal with the rest. We don't need Congress holding votes for National Bird Watcher Day, or whatever pointless BS they twaddle on about. Do your fucking jobs Congressmen. Work with Trump to reduce regulations in a meaningful way, not some feel good, non specific executive order. Any nitwit can write that crap, and the next knucklehead in office will erase it all and do whatever they want. If we wanted to be ruled by children, we've got a great system in place...

  • Ken Shultz||

    There's only so much he can do with a phone and a pen--and there's only so much we want him to do with a phone and a pen.

    What do you want him to do--personally walk over the Capitol building, demand that they abolish whatever regulation he wants, and beat the shit out of anyone who stands in his way?

    He's had a busy week already--and it's only Monday.

  • Jima||

    I'm just saying, as a general method of getting stuff done, I'd prefer that it gets done once, properly. Executive orders are fun, I'm sure, but they're not a good long term solution. I know he's only been in for a week, so my bitching is probably premature, but the whole flurry of exec. orders looks like a trend in the absence of more substantial direction from the White House. I'd prefer to see some long term goals laid out along with an executive order if it's necessary to get the ball rolling. I'm not anti order, but they're not a lasting solution. Let's hear something like, "I'm implementing this order to operate in the interim while we hammer out a solid solution 4 months from now"... or some such.

  • ThomasD||

    Unless and until we get Congress to stop writing laws that require creation of extensive regulation your (and my) desire for diminished Executive fiat will go unheeded.

    My one hope is that, if Trump does succeed in wiping away significant amounts of Federal regulation, and the sky does not crash down, Congress might actually grow enough of a proto-spine to begin to actually undo the laws that undergird leviathan.

  • Don'tTreadOnMeChipper||

    He is just getting ball ball rolling...setting the tone. It's a good move to hopefully be followed up by the pussies in congress doing their jobs for once....

  • Cynical Asshole||

    ^This^

    Unfortunately that would require Congress to look in their collective shorts and find a pair.

  • Lurk Diggler||

    I think a lot of these are completely under his purview.

  • Remnant Psyche||

    Contrary to liberal taking points, Trump is not anywhere close to stupid. My guess is he's signing these orders to see what the reaction is from his base. If they like what he's doing, he'll use the evidence of that to pressure Congress into passing actual laws affecting similar change. If they refuse, he'll just go to Twitter and circumvent the lying media to rile up his base, who will then pressure Congress themselves.

    It may not work, but the media is doing its part to keep Trump voters extremely angry with the doubling and tripling-down on anti-Trump propaganda. That may help to keep them politically engaged.

  • ArbutusJoe||

    A rule like that is too easily gamed by Top Men. I'm not saying the motivation isn't welcome, but the bureaucracy is as clever as it is malevolent.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Yeah, he's a totally ineffectual president on regulation--because he's already been in office for ten days--and he STILL hasn't passed a constitutional amendment striking out the commerce clause!

  • R C Dean||

    Two things about our regulatory state amaze me:

    (1) Apparently, agencies can't just repeal their own regulations with a simple notice or amendment that deletes the current regulation. For some reason, the procedures to enact a regulation have to be followed to delete the regulation. This makes no sense to me, as the procedures to enact a regulation exist because the reg is an exercise of delegated authority. This is like saying that you can't release somebody from prison without a new trial that acquits them.

    (2) Apparently, Congress can't just repeal regulation by passing a law that says so (and having it signed by the President). Regulation is an exercise of delegated legislative authority. Delegation doesn't mean you have given up the authority you delegate; it means you have appointed someone to exercise it on your behalf.

    It is actually easier to repeal a statute than a regulation.

    We are so fucked.

  • Lee Genes||

    1 is annoying. 2 is insane and seemingly an unconstitutional delegation of power between branches, but what do I know?

  • Jima||

    I'll bet 2/3 of the States would sign off on an Amendment to fix that. But I'm not so sure I want anyone getting frisky with Amendments...there's too much opportunity to make things worse. It sure seems like your point in 2.) above is pretty sensible, why would the courts see that differently?

  • Robert||

    #1 is true. Any change in regs is a regul'n.

    #2 is false. There are different ways by which Congress can repeal a reg. Simplest is they rescind the previous legisl'n authorizing the reg. Or more particularly, they just write a new statute with details that supersede the reg.

  • Homple||

    Just think how much better Gary Johnson would have been at cancelling regulations.

  • Lee Genes||

    Who's Reggie Lashun?

  • Lurk Diggler||

    He would probably have done something on pot and passed the national NAZI cake baking act.

  • Vhyrus||

    Is that the one where we bake nazis into cakes? Cause that has some poetic justice to it.

  • Ken Shultz||

    If and when they repeal Dodd-Frank, there will be libertarians around here moaning that he didn't also . . .

    For shit's sake, neither Obama nor Hillary ever would have written an order like this. Moreover, they never would have signed a deregulation bill. All Congress needs to do is get the deregulation on his desk. For the last eight years, it didn't matter whether Congress sent a deregulation bill to the White House or not--there was no one there to sign it.

  • Zero Sum Game||

    And all the complaints about it not being enough or being posturing or what-have-you... It is putting people on notice that shit's about to go down. The regulatory agencies may as well start figuring out how to accomplish this task because he has no intention of reneging on it.

    That means all of them are scrambling to learn new ways to regulate that comply, and that's going to take some education on their part since they've never had to operate this way before.

    Most importantly, this creates magical gridlock inside the agencies as everyone fights over what should be kept and what should go. As their wires get crossed trying to sort it all out, they aren't out fucking over the American public with new horseshit.

  • Jima||

    That magical gridlock point is a pretty good one. Internal dissent is the mother of inaction, so you may be on to something there.

  • 68W58||

    Exactly! If all the bureaucracy does is figure out how to roll two old regulations into one new one at the very least it should slow them down somewhat in dreaming up new ways to screw with the citizenry.

  • Charles Easterly||

    This is like saying that you can't release somebody from prison without a new trial that acquits them.
    What are you, Dean some type of anarchist?

    We are so....

    Upon further reading, you seem to be some type of realist - at minimum in this particular.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    I'm going to say this again, but the United States could reform its regulatory agencies without repealing a single regulation, and could still theoretically give the regulatory agencies the same power of expertise, but bring the legislative branch back into the process making it constitutional.

    I haven't talked about it for a year or so, so I'll lay it out again:

    All regulatory agencies are turned into "Advisory Agencies" that craft and write the regulations. Those are then passed to Congress as a legislative package upon which Congress gives a thumbs up/down vote.

    This satisfies several objectives.

    1. the regulatory agencies aka The Executive are no longer an unelected legislative branch of their own.
    2. The agencies are still relied upon for their 'expertise' in their regulatory area, so the the complaint that "lawmakers just don't understand" is tempered by allowing the agency to write the legislation.
    3. Accountability is placed back into our elected representatives, where it belongs-- and the regulations are bound by the same procedures as any other legislation.
    4. You don't have to cut one single employee or budget to achieve this.
    5. Congress will be appropriately tied up debating and voting on the masses of regulations previously passed in the dark of night, and America will finally be confronted with the dark reality of just how much power the agencies held over the country.

    There are more, but that's just the beginning.

  • The Grinch||

    These aren't bad ideas but you'd have to jam them down congress' throat. They'd be directly accountable for the regulations and that's the last thing they would want.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    The debate would help people sort out where congress members stand on this issue. Let congresspersons stand up and say they don't want their name on this crap the regulatory agencies pass.

  • The Grinch||

    I agree it would be a good thing but the majority of legislators seem to like regulation, it's just that the Dems embrace it and (most of) the Reps grant the regulatory agencies authority and then complain about what they do while secretly endorsing it. They'd never agree to that kind of responsibility.

  • Don'tTreadOnMeChipper||

    But it will be so fun to watch the shitshow....I am beginning to like this dude...

  • ThomasD||

    3. Accountability is placed back into our elected representatives, where it belongs-- and the regulations are bound by the same procedures as any other legislation.

    And that is the fly in the ointment.

    After all, we are talking about a body that uses cloture votes, motions to suspend debate, and other forms of legislative chicanery in order to avoid having to go on record over the actual bill in question.

    Regulatory agencies exist in their current form precisely because that is the way Congress wants it.

    I'd like to see your plan go into effect, but suspect that the only way it would happen is via Constitutional changes.

  • The Fusionist||

    The REINS Act would apply to only 3% of regulations? Then it's not a problem!

    Planned Parenthood says only 3% of its work is abortions, and that's supposed to prove that 3% is too small a proportion to worry about.

    What are you worried about, progs, there's still 97% left!

  • american socialist||

    Did i read that right of no new regulations in 2017?

    If so that is a win.

    Or is it just a net.

  • american socialist||

    I think he wants to also look at cutting regulations as well. As in there will be this eo and also getting rid of a bunch of others

    This appears to apply to just if agencies want new ones they have to cut.

    But there is also plans to cut.

  • The Fusionist||

    There used to a statute allowing either house of Congress to veto a regulatory decision.

    The Supreme Court rightly held this unconstitutional, because the legislative process involves a bill passing *both* houses and then going to the President for signing, veto, or veto and override.

    But if letting one house of Congress pass laws in unconstitutional, then letting regulatory agencies pass laws is extra unconstitutional - at least the "one house veto" involves Congress in some way, the regulatory process not so much.

    Which is why the REINS Act seems like a good idea.

    Not to be confused with the Claude Rains Act, by which Congress professes itself shocked, shocked! to find the regulators overreaching themselves.

  • Dan S.||

    How is it defined what constitutes "one regulation", and what is two or three? The way these things tend to be written, I think it would be very hard to count them clearly, and we may see a lot of arguments over whether a particular sentence in some body of rules constitutes one regulation, or two or more.

  • Vhyrus||

    I was actually expecting people here to be much more excited over this. I guess jaded cynicism tempers everything.

  • XM||

    I wish there was a way to separate good Trump from bad Trump and have him as president for 4 years.

  • XM||

    I wish there was a way to separate good Trump from bad Trump and have him as president for 4 years.

  • TheZenomeProject||

    When good Trump and bad Trump mix together, you certainly get fun Trump and exciting Trump, at least. I think that we all know that the next four years won't be the usual boring, bureaucratic, stifling presidency.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    I'd love to see legislation allowing anyone to challenge any regulation on the grounds that it was unclear, unconstitutional, or in direct contradiction to some other piece of regulation. If they should win, the regulation is trashed and the office or subsection that generated it disbanded and the challenger gets their budget for the next five years, during which time the office or subsection may not operate, and the bureaucrats in question are on unpaid leave.

    Or a hunting season on bureaucrats. Either one.

  • MarconiDarwin||

    Leave it to reason.com Republicans posing as libertarians to applaud a meaningless EO. Because, hey, deregulation.

    There are laws passed by Congress that has led to many of those regulations. An agency cannot cut them on its own.

    The EO only asks the regulating agency to identify two regulations for each one they propose, says nothing about cutting them.

  • XM||

    I wish there was a way to separate good Trump from bad Trump and have him as president for 4 years.

  • XM||

    I tripled a single post without even knowing it.

  • Praveen R.||

    People keep talking about getting rid of regulations. But which ones??? I am glad the article points that out. Regulations definitely need to be refined. bad ones out, and good ones in. If a company is polluting our air and water, guess what, part of a true capitalistic system would make sure they pay their fair share of the damage because that is part of the cost of making the goods they profit from. Unfortunately, companies have shown over time again and again that they are incapable of policing themselves. That is where regulations come in and it is not easy to come up with the most efficient set of regulations to cover entire industries. So some inefficiency will be factored in. Now one can take the spirit of those regulations in stride and make the process more efficient.

    I certainly am glad our regulations are not as onerous as those in Europe in some areas. As far as education, I don't mind regulation that forces colleges to be transparent about different things. I do not want regulation that forces a college to adapt a certain teaching technique or class.

    Regulations are ripe for abuse on both sides of the ideological divide. I have been to conservative townships where city codes strangle any individuality out of retail outlets with sign ordinances and 'look of the building" . Makes it tough to figure out if the shop is an ice cream shop or a dry cleaning store from a distance.

  • Brian Whittle||

    I'm all for limited regulation but one in 2 out is something a child would think of. You have the regulations you need, sure bureaucrats add make work stuff but that's what independent oversight is for. Chopping regulation should start with the Tax Code but the people who have a vested interest in keeping it complicated have really good lobbyists with great perks.

  • Travel Center||

    Meaningful reform will require the action of Congress, but the worm just turned--and hallelujah--libertarian moment!

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