Trump’s deregulatory promises are coming true and saving $570 million

Trump’s deregulatory promises are coming true and saving $570 million
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpSchiff: Surveillance warrant docs show that Nunes memo 'misrepresented and distorted these applications' Chicago detention facility under investigation following allegations of abuse of migrant children Ex-Trump aide: Surveillance warrants are 'complete ignorance' and 'insanity' MORE took to the podium Thursday to tout his administration’s deregulatory achievements, claiming “the never-ending growth of red tape in America has come to a sudden, screeching and beautiful halt.”

Deregulation had been a key theme on the campaign trail, and within his first two weeks of office Trump directed federal agencies to remove two regulations for every new one they issued, and to cap the total cost of new regulations at zero. He also established in each agency a “regulatory reform officer” and task force responsible for reducing regulatory burdens.

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A new report from the White House tallies up the results of this effort to date. Release of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs’ (OIRA) semi-annual Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions is usually greeted with a yawn except from the most ardent regulatory nerds, but this year was different. The agenda included a Two-for-One Status Report that provides much-anticipated details on the administration’s deregulatory efforts. The message is striking, which may explain the president’s address as well as on- and off-the-record briefings from top administration officials.

 

The report finds that over the first eight months of the administration, executive agencies issued 67 deregulatory actions and only three significant regulatory actions. That’s a ratio of 22 regulations removed for every one issued.

Many of those deregulatory actions are not particularly noteworthy, such as modifications to Department of Commerce rules on commercial fishing of Spanish mackerel in federal waters. Others reflect recurring actions, including import regulations such as the Department of Agriculture’s rule allowing avocadoes to be imported from Colombia. Some reflect changes in reporting frequency, others removed obsolete rules, and some began in the previous administration and were completed in 2017.

The one-in-22-out ratio sounds impressive, but is probably of limited consequence because it counts any deregulatory action as an “out” but only counts significant regulatory actions as “ins.” Much more meaningful is the administration’s estimate that these actions will save Americans more than $570 million per year on net. Most of these savings ($417 million) come from repeal of a rule on “Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces.” The swift repeal of this rule was possible both because Trump rescinded President Obama’s executive order authorizing it, and because Congress issued a joint resolution disapproving it under the Congressional Review Act.

The Department of Interior’s actions provide another $80.5 million in annual cost savings. Interior completed 12 deregulatory actions between January and September, but nullification of its “Stream Protection Rule,” issued in the last few months of the Obama administration and overturned by Congress in February, contributes the entire estimated cost savings.

The Departments of Homeland Security, Transportation and Agriculture, along with the Environmental Protection Agency, also report net savings in the tens of millions per year from their actions. The Department of Energy, on the other hand, issued “energy conservations standards for walk-in cooler and freezer refrigeration systems” that are estimated to cost $36 million per year.

In addition, the agenda reports that 1,579 actions that had been under consideration at the end of the Obama administration have been withdrawn or delayed. Of these, 635 are no longer being considered, 244 are inactive and 700 have been put on the back burner.

Looking ahead to fiscal 2018, regulatory agencies are upping the ante and promising to issue three deregulatory actions for every new regulatory action. The Departments of Interior and Labor are committing to the greatest net annual cost savings, at $196 million and $137 million respectively, and all agencies plan to operate within a net zero budget. In total, the agenda projects executive agencies’ actions will result in $686 million in annual savings next year.

In some ways, this will be more challenging than the first eight months have been. The bulk of the cost savings achieved in 2017 were from rules Congress overturned, but the window for such disapprovals has generally closed. Future cost savings will require notice-and-comment rulemaking that involves careful justification and time. As the OIRA Administrator, Neomi Rao observes in the preamble to the agenda, “it requires rigor and fairness in assessing the actual impacts of new regulatory and deregulatory policies.”

Compared to previous presidents, Trump's agencies have issued significantly fewer new regulatory actions and have even begun to look back at existing regulations with an eye toward cost-saving modifications or outright rescissions. Whatever you think of Trump’s chaotic first ten months in office, it is undeniable that he is moving aggressively to fulfill his campaign promises to reduce regulation.

Susan E. Dudley is director of the George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center.