Trump is finding deregulating as hard as regulating
© Getty

Between January 21, 2009, and May 31, 2009, the Obama Administration Office of Management and Budget cleared 129 regulations (proposed and final) for publication.

In the comparable period this year, the Trump Administration cleared 41. If one removes the required regulations that govern the Medicare program’s reimbursements, the comparison is 108 to 25. 

The cheerleaders for the Trump administration will argue that the administration doesn’t want to regulate so this is a good thing. But President TrumpDonald TrumpCaitlyn Jenner says election was not 'stolen,' calls Biden 'our president' Overnight Health Care: FDA authorizes Pfizer vaccine for adolescents | Biden administration reverses limits on LGBTQ health protections Overnight Defense: US fires 30 warning shots at Iranian boats | Kabul attack heightens fears of Afghan women's fates | Democratic Party leaders push Biden on rejoining Iran deal MORE has said not only does he not want to regulate but he wants to deregulate.


Trump particularly wants to reverse the many regulations issued by President Obama. But he is off to a very slow start as the review counts show. Not only is the Trump administration not regulating, it is not deregulating either.


In some ways, this is not particularly surprising. Deregulating takes just as much time as regulating. But in an effective administration, one would at least see some first steps in that direction. Aside from a few relatively meaningless executive orders, we haven’t.

Two failings, in particular, have made it difficult for the Trump administration to follow through on its deregulatory agenda. The first is the slow pace at which the President has made political appointments. At the Environmental Protection Agency, the chief target of many deregulators, Administrator Scott Pruitt is working with very few politically appointed deputies

Many regulatory agencies like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and others at the Department of Labor continue to operate without agency heads.

Without political appointees, there is no one to manage the process of deregulation. Civil servants at the agencies are not going to be enthusiastic about rolling back the regulatory efforts they had previously worked to put in place. 

This is particularly true when they are managed by an administration that continually denigrates them. Experienced government officials who can work with the permanent bureaucracy are needed to carry out any agenda, particularly one as difficult as deregulation. 

As Trump continues to have trouble filling positions, this problem will only worsen

The second problem for the Trump administration is the self-inflicted chaos that it has created. Between the tweets, the scandals, and the general atmosphere that the Trump administration has fostered, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that they are having trouble creating new policies. 

Just think about how many times you are checking the news during the day now, and imagine how that affects people whose daily lives are most directly affected by it. And direction from the White House staff, is clearly going to be absent when their every waking moment is spent reacting to the latest crisis, or wondering if they need to find a lawyer. 

And even if the Trump administration gets its act together, they will still have to face the inevitable lawsuits over their deregulatory actions, many of which will be challenging to defend in court. 

What about the part of the deregulatory agenda that Congress is responsible for? Well they did repeal 14 regulations (out of 150) that were eligible using the Congressional Review Act. Now Congress has turned its attention to long-term regulatory reform. But passing these bills that will make it harder to regulate in the future will require the cooperation of Democrats in the Senate. 

And the Trump administration’s regular scorning of the opposition party will make such passage harder, if not impossible.

The Trump administration has been filled with bold pledges about deregulation and relatively ineffectual executive orders. So far they have managed to repeal 14 out of nearly 2000 Obama administration significant regulations. 

Supporters of government regulation can take heart about one thing; unless current conditions change, the Trump administration will be hard pressed to make it much further.

Stuart Shapiro is professor and director of the Public Policy Program at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University, and a member of the Scholars Strategy Network. Follow him on Twitter @shapiro_stuart.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.