Regulatory Reform Can Make America Great Again

Regulatory Reform Can Make America Great Again
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Last week, the Phoenix Center published a new study covering the costs of federal regulations on the private sector. It determined that one federal regulator costs the private sector 135 jobs. Yes, you read that right: For every federal bureaucrat your tax dollar supports, 135 of your neighbors are without work.

The Phoenix Center study also found that a 10 percent cut in the regulatory budget would provide an additional 1.2 trillion in GDP. Such a cut in regulatory budget would simply bring the nation back to the pre-Obama levels. The Phoenix Center study concludes that a minor trimming of the federal bureaucracy would create 3 million new jobs annually. 

In short, if Trump did nothing else but return the federal bureaucracy to pre-Obama levels, it would be an economic success. Just imagine what would happen to our economy if Trump could return the federal bureaucracy to pre-Bush or pre-Clinton levels.

Trump Doubles Down

Last Friday, President Trump signed an executive order to enforce his regulatory reform agenda, proving that he is serious about regulatory reform. This new executive action requires each agency head to appoint a Regulatory Reform Officer, an agency watchdog, ensuring Trump's regulation reduction efforts get implemented. 

The president has already instructed each agency to eliminate two regulations for every new regulation that is introduced. The new executive order supplements this one by requiring watchdogs to ensure federal agencies do not introduce major regulations while only eliminating minor regulations. 

These watchdogs will also be responsible for putting some teeth in President Obama’s executive order requiring agencies to do retrospective reviews. The goal of these retrospective reviews was to eliminate “outmoded, ineffective, insufficient, or excessively burdensome” regulations. As I pointed out last week in these pages, Obama’s executive order had good intentions but did not have any meaningful results. 

By contrast, Trump’s new executive order requires each agency to evaluate existing regulations. Each regulation must be reviewed to see if it: 1) eliminates jobs, or inhibits job creation; 2) is outdated, unnecessary, or ineffective; 3) imposes costs that exceed benefits; 4) is inconsistent with other existing regulations; or 5) is a result of executive orders that are no longer in existence. Federal agencies are to repeal, replace, or modify any existing regulations that fail this review.

Refocusing Bureaucratic Power

We should applaud Trump’s efforts to reverse the powers of the federal bureaucracy. For over 100 years, federal agencies have been growing as they create new regulations. While some of these rules may be good or well-intentioned, they also serve to justify the existence of bureaucrats and thus protect federal agencies’ budgets. And, as an agency’s budget grows, so too does the power of that agency. This, in turn, encourages federal agencies to focus on preserving their power rather than preserving the liberties and freedoms of the American people.

As a consequence, it is not enough to have one watchdog per agency. A single watchdog will have a hard time keeping up with the thousands of bureaucrats that populate federal agencies. In the same way that voters often believe that the problem with Congress is everyone else’s congressman, so, likewise, bureaucrats will be reluctant to admit that they are the problem. Moreover, agencies will almost always believe that the regulation they are working on is absolutely necessary.

That is why President Trump should impose a moratorium on the creation of any new regulations until all retrospective reviews are completed. 

Moreover, Trump should require each regulation to be open for public comment during the moratorium and have a sunset date, so that the regulation will end unless Congress votes to extend it. If the agency does not open the regulation for review by the end of the moratorium, the agency watchdog will be required to reopen the regulation to determine whether it should be eliminated within the next 90 days. If the agency does not reopen the regulation to establish a sunset date, the watchdog will reopen it for elimination.

The result will be to force federal agencies to focus less on preserving their own power and more on their goals and effectiveness. 

The Ensuing Battle

President Trump is fighting for regulatory reform by using the power of the presidency to rein in the bureaucrats. The Phoenix Center study provides the ammunition he needs. To be sure, two executive orders do not amount to a victory. But they prove that Trump is ready for a showdown with the federal agencies — and serious about making American great again.

Mark Meuser is a seasoned trial attorney. In 2016, he was a paid staffer for Cruz for President. He also was involved in the presidential recounts in both Wisconsin and Michigan. You can follow him at @MarkMeuser.

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