New data confirm that the Trump Administration added to its already unprecedented deregulatory success in Fiscal Year 2019. This fundamental shift in how the Federal government views regulation breaks with the decades-long accumulation of mandates that place high costs on the U.S. economy. Under President Trump’s Administration, regulatory costs tracked by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs have fallen by $50 billion, and costs are on track to fall by at least as much in Fiscal Year 2020.
The Trump Administration’s deregulatory actions across a vast array of American industries are the most significant in U.S. history. The Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) estimates that after 5 to 10 years, this new approach to Federal regulation will have raised real incomes by $3,100 per household per year by increasing choice, productivity, and competition.
President Trump’s Executive Order 13771, which requires Federal departments and agencies to: (1) eliminate two regulatory actions for each new regulatory action; and (2) not exceed a regulatory cost allowance, is the cornerstone of the Administration’s deregulatory success. Under President Trump, Federal agencies took 393 deregulatory actions and only 52 new significant regulatory actions under EO 13771, far exceeding the 2:1 requirement with a ratio above 7:1 for deregulatory to significant regulatory actions.
From 2000 to 2016, the Federal Government put out an average of over 100 more significant final regulations than the number finalized in FY 2019, and many of the rules published last year counted as deregulatory actions that did not impose burdens on Americans. Because of the Trump Administration’s commitment to deregulation, consumers and small businesses no longer have to dread the steady accumulation of costly new Federal regulations.
Taking old regulations off the books has caused the total number of pages published in the Code of Federal Regulations to fall under President Trump. While Code of Federal Regulations page counts include many non-regulatory and even deregulatory actions, and therefore offer a simple measure of regulatory burden, an analysis of the restrictive terms such as “shall” and “required” contained in those pages provides a more illustrative view of the burdens imposed by regulatory accumulation. Under President Obama, the number of restrictive terms increased by about 120,000. For President George W. Bush, the increase was about 105,000. Under President Trump, regulatory restrictions have decreased, providing further evidence of the Administration’s commitment to stopping regulatory accumulation.
This new approach to regulation not only reduces or eliminates costly regulations established by prior administrations, but also sharply reduces the rate at which new Federal regulations are promulgated. The ongoing introduction of regulations had previously been subtracting an estimated 0.2 percent per year from real incomes, thereby contributing to the false impression that the American economy was fundamentally incapable of anything better than slow growth, or “secular stagnation.”
Concurrently with the 2017 Presidential inauguration, real GDP growth began outperforming experts’ forecasts where it was previously underperforming them. This should not come as a surprise, as evaluating regulation across countries shows that, all else being equal, countries that deregulated experienced more economic growth.
Deregulation helps small businesses the most. Unlike large companies, small businesses do not typically have a team of in-house lawyers and regulatory compliance staff, making understanding and complying with regulations particularly onerous. From 2012 until October 2016, the National Federation of Independent Business found that a plurality of small businesses reported that regulation was a top concern about 45 percent of the time. But, since the election, a plurality of small businesses have never selected regulations as their most important problem.
In addition to reevaluating existing regulations, the Trump Administration is working to ensure that regulatory guidance is transparent and not used to circumvent the rulemaking process. Guidance is supposed to be nonbinding and should only be used by agencies to clarify existing requirements under the law or an agency’s policies. Its designated role as a compliance assistance tool is the reason why guidance is exempt from the Administrative Procedure Act’s public notice-and-comment requirements. Under a recent Executive Order, Federal agencies will need to post their guidance on a single website, review existing guidance documents, clarify that guidance is non-binding, submit significant guidance for regulatory review, and update their internal regulations to ensure more uniform and clear guidance development practices, among other updates that promote transparency, cost-benefit analysis, and the rule of law.
By increasing choice, productivity, and competition, the Trump Administration’s deregulatory success has cut red tape for American businesses and extended them the freedom to create jobs. Given the Administration’s ambitious Fall Unified Agenda, which is projected to lead to nearly $52 billion in additional savings in Fiscal Year 2020 alone, deregulatory benefits to consumers, job creators, and the economy is bound to grow more than ever in 2020.