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March 28, 2018

Immediately after the Inauguration the Administration, Congressional Leaders and the business community worked together to begin the process of rolling back the aggressive regulatory agenda of the Obama Administration. Some Obama Executive Orders were quickly reversed by Trump Executive Orders, some rules would be reversed by an agency, and some were unraveled by withdrawing the government from ongoing litigation.

Significantly, rules were also reversed legislatively using the Congressional Review Act (CRA). The CRA was enacted in 1996 to allow Congress to repeal rules issued by a president late in his/her term.  Prior to 2017, the CRA had been successfully used only once; last year Congress and President Trump repealed 14 rules using the CRA.

The regulatory reform effort has been successful by any measure. On October 2nd Investor’s Business Daily reported on a study by the Competitive Enterprise Institute showing that:

Trump ends the fiscal year as America’s least-regulatory president since Reagan. It’s no exaggeration. The Federal Register, the bible of federal rules, peaked at record high 97,110 pages under President Obama in 2016. Today, under President Trump, it stands at 45,678 pages.

Even more notable, on January 5th this year American Action Forum (AAF) published a comprehensive report entitled “2017: THE YEAR IN REGULATION.”    AAF reported that 274 regulations were finalized in 2017 with an economic cost of $30.6 billion, but that:

81 percent of all regulatory costs finalized in 2017 came during President Obama’s final weeks in office. . . Of the $30.6 billion in finalized costs last year, $24.8 billion came from 38 rules published from January 3-19, 2017, in the waning days of the Obama Administration . . . [T]he imposition of just $5.8 billion in new regulatory costs in nearly a year is a considerable feat for the Trump Administration.

AAF further reported that seven of the ten most expensive rules implemented in 2017 came from the Obama Administration; as did five of the six rules imposing the greatest paperwork burden. And most of the ten rules providing the most regulatory cost savings came from the Trump Administration.  They concluded their report noting that

2017 marked a sea change in the regulatory paradigm. . . [T]he Trump Administration’s latest regulatory agenda and proposed deregulatory measures heading into 2018 point to a continued shift towards reducing regulatory costs and new paperwork mandates. [You can read AAF’s full report here:]

Press coverage of Trump regulatory reform –

This success story should have merited press coverage, especially since the business-friendly regulatory climate almost certainly contributed to economic growth and the record-breaking stock market. But the story has gone mostly untold, with two exceptions.

Politico took note in a May 28th story headlined:  “Inside Trump’s war on regulations . . . The push to block, rewrite and delay scores of Obama-era rules may be the administration’s biggest untold success.”  They wrote that:

The chaos of President Donald Trump’s first four months as president has overshadowed a series of actions that could reshape American life for decades — efforts to rewrite or wipe out regulations affecting everything from student loans and restaurant menus to internet privacy, workplace injuries and climate change.

But Trump is going after even bigger targets, setting bureaucratic wheels in motion that could eventually ax or revise hundreds of regulations as agencies reorient themselves toward unwinding red tape and granting speedier approvals to projects. If successful, these efforts could represent the most far-reaching rollback of federal regulations since Ronald Reagan’s presidency.

The goal of the effort is “systemic reform,” said Andrew Bremberg, director of the White House’s Domestic Policy Council — aiming for results that last well beyond Trump’s presidency.

The only other major media coverage of the Trump regulatory reform agenda stands in stark contrast to the Politico story.  On December 11th Bloomberg published a story with the headline:  “Trump Takes Credit for Killing Hundreds of Regulations That Were Already Dead . . . Overblown claims of sweeping deregulation.”

And just in case anyone might have missed it, Bloomberg ran a virtually identical story three days later, on December 14th headlined:  “Trump Boasts of Bringing a ‘Screeching’ Halt to Growth of Regulations.”

In their stories, the Bloomberg reporters argue that the Trump regulatory reform claims are “exaggerated” and they attempt to debunk the Trump claims of killing or stalling 860 regulations. While they do give the Administration credit for withdrawing 271 of the 860 regulations, they nit-pick the other claims: 282 regulations were just reclassified as long-term, meaning only that they will not be considered this year; 109 were just re-classified as inactive, meaning they are dormant but could be revived; 183 were listed as withdrawn, but they weren’t really under consideration by the Obama Administration anyway.

From a business community perspective, 574 regulations that are now postponed, inactive or withdrawn are regulations that won’t be imposed on them or slow the economy.   And one supposes that to the Trump Administration, the Bloomberg stories are just more examples of “Fake News.”