January 31 2017
Patrice L. Onwuka
President Donald Trump signed an executive order yesterday to dramatically reduce Washington’s regulations with a policy of slashing two for every one new regulation.
Agencies will now be required to cut two existing regulations for every new rule introduced. The order exempts regulations for the military and national security. It also contains important cost-control and transparency provisions. The cost of any new regulation must be offset by eliminating regulations with the same costs. Regulations have been on the rise, but after more than 600 major rules costing at least $700 billion since President Obama took office, the federal rolls are have hit record levels of regulations.
President Trump highlighted this as just one of many efforts that we can expect to scale back the expansion of federal agencies dating back multiple presidencies:
Trump on Monday said he wasn't done targeting regulations, reiterating his campaign promise to try and cut 75 percent of rules.
“The American dream is back," he said.
"This isn’t a knock on President Obama; this is a knock on many president[s] preceding me,” he continued, referring to the burdens on businesses. “Regulation has been horrible for big business, but it’s been worse for small business.”
The president has especially been critical of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law, calling it a “disaster.”
“We’re going to be doing a big number on Dodd-Frank,” he vowed.
Business groups support the effort, which is part of Trump’s campaign promise to cut regulations by 75 percent.
Opponents, who support of Washington's wielding regulations to exert greater control, consider this order in more dire terms:
Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, called the executive order “absurd, imposing a Sophie’s Choice on federal agencies. If, for example, the Environmental Protection Agency wants to issue a new rule to protect kids from mercury exposure, will it need to get rid of two other science-based rules, such as limiting lead in drinking water and cutting pollution from school buses?”
Kimmell added that Trump’s order was “also likely illegal. Congress has not called upon EPA to choose between clean air and clean water, and the president cannot do this by executive fiat.”
Somewhere in between are those who question whether the focus should be on how onerous the regulations are rather than the number of regulations eliminated themselves. For example, former agency bigwigs from conservative and liberal administrations weighed in on the new executive order and generally agreed that it should be about quality not just quantity.
Part of the quality challenge is that the order doesn’t tackle major policies - particularly those coming from independent agencies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission, which crafted many of the banking and financial rules from the whopper 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law. The White House noted that this is just step one of many actions to come though. They plan to work with Congress to begin making changes to Dodd-Frank (among others).
Working with Congress will be key here. For the past eight years, we watched government expand through the strike of one man’s pen. Now, is the time for the White House and Capitol Hill to work together for smart reforms that scale back burdensome regulations.
The opportunity for Americans when regulations get rolled back are huge. The impact of expanded regulations on the day-to-day lives of Americans spans industries. Current regulations saddle American businesses with added costs forcing them to make tough personnel decisions; drive up the prices for food and goods; limit access to organ transplants, new drugs, and therapies; and make it harder to fight infectious diseases, just to name a few.
We’ll watch to see how this unfolds, but any effort to cut the stranglehold of red tape on small and big businesses is a welcome development.