President Trump and his regulatory affairs chief teamed up on Thursday to dramatize progress in the administration’s agenda of major cuts in regulations, combining a camera-ready “ribbon cutting” with release of the latest unified agenda of regulatory and deregulatory actions.
Trump spoke while standing before a small stack of documents representing the 25,000 pages in the Code of Federal Regulations in 1960, next to a much larger stack representing the 185,000 pages in today’s code. "Within the first eleven months, we canceled or delayed over 1,500 planned regulatory actions, more than any previous president, by far," Trump said at the White House with Cabinet members. “We blew our target out of the water….And you see the results, when you look at the stock market, and when you see companies coming back into our country."
Referring to his early executive order aiming to eliminate two regulations for every new one, Trump said instead, “we have eliminated 22!” He added, “The never-ending growth of red tape has come to a sudden screeching and beautiful halt.”
He challenged every Cabinet member and federal employee to find more to cut.
Earlier in the day, Neomi Rao, administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, released the fall edition of the administration's Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions. The text calls the agency-by-agency inventory a “step in fundamental regulatory reform and a reorientation toward reducing unnecessary regulatory burden on the American people,” while touting the new approach as more transparent, with clearer indicators as to whether an action is “net regulatory or deregulatory.”
The agenda also includes “newly anticipated deregulatory actions that emerged from reviews already well underway. Agencies have committed to careful assessment of the costs and benefits of each regulatory and deregulatory action, and to prioritizing the maximization of net benefits of regulations,” it said. OIRA acknowledged that reform “will take time and require rigorous analysis, public input, and careful consideration of a variety of important legal and social values.”
In all during the past year, the agenda said, 635 regulations were withdrawn, 244 regulations were made inactive and 700 regulations were added to the agenda’s “long term” list, with more planned by agencies in 2018.
In an op-ed in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal, Rao compared Trump’s progress against the Obama administration’s. “In his final eight months, President Obama saddled the economy with as much as $15.2 billion in regulatory costs, while hiding from the public a needlessly ‘secret’ list of more than 600 regulations,” she wrote. “Reversing this trend sends a clear message to families and businesses: It’s OK to plan for the future without the looming threat of red tape.”
An analysis by Bloomberg, however, found that many of the cancellations Trump’s team takes credit for were already dead.
Consumer and liberal leaning groups were highly critical of Trump’s moves. "Starting on Day One, the Trump administration has perpetrated an all-out assault on essential public safeguards for health, safety, the environment and American families' financial security, and today, the president took the time to revel in all the damage he has overseen,” said James Goodwin, senior policy analyst at the Center for Progressive Reform. "For the president, this is about helping big-monied interests make more money. For everyday Americans, it's about making sure our kids can breathe clean air and drink clean water, saving for retirement, keeping workplaces safe, protecting our natural treasures and warding off the worst effects of climate change.”
Trump’s “absurd rhetoric demonizing ‘red tape’ is nothing more than a stand-in for removing public protections that the American people depend on, and a way of catering to the demands of big corporations,” said Lisa Gilbert, vice president of legislative affairs for Public Citizen. “Main Street Americans want strong and effective safeguards to protect our air, water, health, safety, financial system and more. Trump’s attack on regulations and gutting of enforcement is setting the stage for major deregulatory disasters.”