2017-07-25 18:16:20 UTC
By Wayne Crews | July 24, 2017 | 3:47 PM EDT
No one is surprised that the Trump administration would issue
considerably fewer regulations than the Obama administration.
On Friday, we got not only “Donald J. Trump’s Six Months of America
First” media statement, covering energy, the Supreme Court appointment
of Neil Gorsuch, government accountability, trade, regulations and the
like. We also got the obscure “Unified Agenda of Federal Regulatory and
Deregulatory Actions,” which lists agency priorities. It’s been
published twice a year since the Reagan administration. It just happens
that the Agenda and the six-month mark happened on the same day.
Early in his administration, Trump prominently declared that 70 percent
of regulations “can go,” issued a regulatory freeze , and required
agencies to eliminate at least two rules for every new rule adopted. Any
new costs need to be offset.
Topline numbers from the new Spring" 2017 Unified Agenda are (at least
as of the morning of July 21; the site has been down all afternoon):
Active (pre-rule, proposed and final): 1,731 (economically significant
among these: 58)
Completed: 1,094 (economically significant among these, 67)
Long-term: 696 (economically significant among these, 47)
Barack Obama’s final Agenda had more “active” rules, but fewer
“completed” and “long-term” ones. Overall, Trump’s numbers were higher
at 3,521, but getting rid of a rule requires issuing a “rule” to do so.
So diagnostics on the Agenda will be ongoing. The Interior Department,
for example, has talked of reducing its regulations by 50 percent.
Another takeaway is that there are usually 100-plus economically
significant rules each year (those with an effect of at least $100
million). Trump’s numbers here are higher than Obama’s, but remember
that Trump agency rules have to be offset, and there is bound to be a
higher proportion of regular rules and economically significant rules
that are deregulatory, yet must be reported as rules nonetheless. Green
eyeshades will tell the tale.
The Agenda outlines agency priorities, so a better gauge is the Federal
Register, which depicts all agency rules. When one looks at Federal
Register data, overall rules and significant rules from Trump’s first
six months are way down compared to Obama.
Trump Final Rules Down Compared to Obama’s First Six Months. We can
compare executive branch and independent agency rules the Trump
administration has issued so far, to the same period under President
Obama in 2016.
Six Months of Trump Regulations Compared to Obama (January 20-July 20)
Trump 2017 1,509 99
Obama 2016 1,865 173
The Trump administration, in six months, has issued 1,509 rules. Over
the corresponding six months in 2016 (January 20-July 20), Obama issued
1,865 rules. Trump’s tally represents a 19 percent decrease.
Again, getting rid of a rule requires issuing a “rule” in order to
comply with Administrative Procedure Act’s notice-and-comment
requirements, so some of these numbers may obscure that some of Trump’s
rules have been eliminations or delays of earlier rules that had not yet
reached their effective date (this EPA example contains several). And
new costs imposed by agencies must be zero. So it is dramatic that raw
counts are down even in the face of “rules” that aren’t rules.
Trump’s agencies have issued 99 significant” rules—those with at least
$100 million in estimated annual impacts—during his first six months,
while Obama’s issued 173 over the same six-month period in 2016, a
decrease of 44 percent. Again, this does not take into account that
often deferrals or freezes or whether rule costs have been offset.
Rules in the pipeline are way down. What we just covered are rules
finalized. Proposed rules are in the process of being created—that is,
written and submitted to notice and comment. (Again, some of these will
likely be efforts to revoke rules.)
If final rules are down under Trump, overall proposed rules are down
even more so, and not just compared to Obama, but also to George W. Bush
and Bill Clinton (second term too).
Six Months of Trump Proposed Rules Compared to Predecessors (January
Proposed Rules Significant Rules Proposed Rules
Trump (2017) 844
Obama (2016) 1248
Obama (2009) 947
Bush (2008) 1231
Bush (2001) 1176
Clinton (2000) 1420
Clinton (1997) 1569
Trump’s overall proposed rules in the pipeline are down 32 percent
compared to Obama’s final year’s comparable interval (Trump’s 844
compared to Obama’s 1248) and Trump’s “significant” proposed rules are
down 77 percent from his predecessor (47 compared to Obama’s 207). New,
large-scale regulation seems to have largely stopped in 2017, and where
it doesn’t, new costs need to be offset.
The Trump mode so far is to regulate bureaucrats rather than the public.
This seems significant for the administrative state. The last time we
saw anything comparable was when regulations and Federal Register page
counts both dropped by over a third under Reagan.
Wayne Crews is vice president for policy and director of technology
studies at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.