'Distractor in Chief' has made room for unprecedented regulatory reform

With the media electing to focus only on the salacious and scandalous, it’s natural for Americans to wonder what “news” has been getting brushed aside by the Mueller Report, Michael Avenatti, et al.

Earlier this year, just prior to my leaving the administration, Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyTrump asks Mulvaney to leave room during ABC interview due to coughing Trump asks Mulvaney to leave room during ABC interview due to coughing GOP nervous that border wall fight could prompt year-end shutdown MORE instructed all Cabinet agencies to make aggressive regulatory reform their top priority. The former OMB director and now White House chief of staff implored Cabinet chiefs of staff that their bosses performance will be evaluated first and foremost based upon their regulatory reform accomplishments in 2019.

Democratic congressional leaders, most of whom crow for more job-killing regulations and laud each incremental expansion of the administrative state, have also chosen to instead focus on the salacious as opposed to the substantive. It’s not so much that the media and Democrats haven't given the Trump team sufficient credit (or more likely in their view, criticism) for what they’ve done — it’s that they are so obsessed with each early-morning tweet storm and sensational accusation that they haven’t even really noticed. The result has been a booming economy with record sustained GDP growth, peaking at 4.2 percent in July 2018, and no negative impacts to safety or consumers.


During the Bush administration, where regulatory reform was a priority but was not attacked with the alacrity or fearlessness of this administration, actions like dozens taken by many Cabinet agencies since January 2017 would have been featured on the front pages of The New York Times and The Washington Post. In the Trump presidency, trade press and think tanks have been left to cover these significant actions with vast economic impacts.

Now mind you, I’m not complaining about this — rather just marveling at it. Whether the president is intentionally or unintentionally doing it, his serving as a convenient and highly effective distraction has allowed agencies to take actions that improve or eliminate regulations that needed reform, while congressional Democrats and the media obsess over the Mueller report, Stormy Daniels, Michael CohenMichael Dean CohenThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump and House Democrats resume battle The Hill's Morning Report - Trump and House Democrats resume battle House Oversight votes to hold Barr, Ross in contempt MORE and any other number of other Trump-related issues that have zero impact on regular Americans or their daily lives.

This all continues to be great news for the economy, proven by the aforementioned record GDP growth as well as consecutive quarters of historically low unemployment. CEOs across many industries will attest that reforming regulations that add no safety or consumer protection value has been the chief driver of the growth and prosperity the U.S. economy has experienced since early 2017.

As agencies continue to focus on creating greater efficiencies, reducing costs and streamlining processes in 2019 and beyond, their work will only grow more challenging. Much of the low-hanging fruit was gathered up early in the administration, and what remains are some of the most politically challenging and complex regulatory reform targets. Here’s hoping neither the media nor the Trump Cabinet change their approach on this incredibly impactful issue.

Geoff Burr is policy director at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck. Most recently, he served as Chief of Staff to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine ChaoElaine Lan ChaoTransportation Secretary Chao sells stock in Vulcan after pledge to divest by 2018 Transportation Secretary Chao sells stock in Vulcan after pledge to divest by 2018 McConnell brushes off question about special treatment from Chao MORE; he also served as her deputy assistant secretary for congressional affairs in the Department of Labor during President George W. Bush’s administration.