Why Trump can't actually cut 70 percent of regulations

In a speech on Thursday, GOP nominee Donald Trump said "We are cutting the regulation at a tremendous clip. I would say 70 percent of regulations can go." One of his advisers put the number to be cut at 10 percent. It's not unusual for Republicans to promise to cut regulations. What is unusual is putting a precise number on it, and as with many of Trump's claims about the state of the country or his plans for it, it is an easy number to refute.


The issue of regulation has been so thoroughly politicized that it is not surprising if members of the public think that issuing a regulation or rescinding one is something that a president can do with the stroke of a pen. Regulations often get confused with executive orders which actually can be done away with quite easily. One would expect a President TrumpDonald TrumpCaitlyn Jenner on Hannity touts Trump: 'He was a disruptor' Ivanka Trump doubles down on vaccine push with post celebrating second shot Conservative Club for Growth PAC comes out against Stefanik to replace Cheney MORE (or any Republican) to revoke a number of President Obama's executive orders upon taking office, but doing so would do virtually nothing to relieve businesses of regulatory costs.

As I have written before (and as have others more sympathetic to the cause of repealing regulations), getting rid of a regulation is a time-consuming endeavor. Proponents of regulation have often complained about how hard it is to issue a regulation. For better or for worse, it takes roughly the same amount of time to get rid of one — years.

First, the agency must propose repealing the regulation and open this proposal for public comment. If the regulation has a large economic impact (as one would imagine most of the regulations a President Trump would want to dismantle would), then it must also conduct an economic analysis of the proposed repeal and have that proposal reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Once the agency receives comments, it has to respond to those comments, redo its analysis, have the repeal reviewed by OMB again, and publish the final document rescinding the regulation.

Then the agency will almost certainly get sued. In the case of repealing a regulation, they are likely to be sued by public interest groups that supported the regulation initially. Counterintuitively, they may also get sued by industry. If an industry has spent millions of dollars coming into to compliance with the regulation, they are not likely to be happy that new competitors can now enter their market without doing so. By the time the lawsuit is heard, ruled upon and appealed, years will have passed.

For a regulation like the Clean Power Plan — the Obama administration's effort to limit greenhouse gas emissions — a Trump administration may feel it is worth it to go through this process. But for the thousands of other regulatory targets, doing so would mean not doing all the other things government agencies are legally required to do. Or pursuing any of the other new initiatives that a President Trump might find attractive.

Trump (like many without government experience) has a view of the presidency as more powerful than it is. It is true that the executive branch has become much more powerful over the past century, but that power is far from unlimited. President Trump will find building a wall and getting Mexico to pay for it to be virtually impossible. But it will be easier than repealing 70 percent of regulations.

Shapiro is an associate professor and director of the Public Policy Program at Rutgers University and a member of the Scholars Strategy Network.

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