President Trump is falling behind in his promise to cut two regulations for every new rule imposed, but he’s still introducing far fewer regulations than President Barack Obama, according to a new study released Wednesday.
The Competitive Enterprise Institute’s annual report on the cost of regulations found that Mr. Trump cut regulations at a rate of about 1.7 for every new rule imposed in fiscal 2019. The president has claimed recently that he’s far exceeded his two-for-one guideline since 2017.
The total annual cost of regulations remains more than $1.9 trillion in what CEI calls “hidden taxes,” and new coronavirus spending will add more rules to that total, the Institute said. It exceeds the total of corporate and personal income taxes combined.
“President Trump early on emphasized the need to help businesses succeed by cutting unneeded red tape, and during the COVID-19 pandemic he’s gone further with an Executive Order aimed at making temporary deregulations permanent,” said Clyde Wayne Crews Jr., author of the report and a CEI vice president.
“There is a great deal more he can do unilaterally to streamline regulation and achieve a lasting legacy of deregulation. Ultimately, though, Congress must step in to make serious, permanent changes in the regulatory burdens that hold businesses back from economic recovery and success,” Mr. Crews said.
Last week, the president directed his Cabinet secretaries to conduct a broad effort to cut more regulations and to make some of the red tape cuts permanent. Mr. Trump said the goal is to help businesses recover quickly from the pandemic-provoked shutdowns.
The president also urged federal agencies to go easy on enforcement actions against businesses that are making good-faith efforts to comply with the law as they emerge from the crisis.
Mr. Crews said the pandemic has increased the urgency for regulation cutting.
“It is not enough to get rid of specific rules,” he said. “The rulemaking process itself, which lets harmful rules pass and prevents their reform, needs urgent attention. Congress, the president, and agencies need to work together right now to enact system-level reforms. These will help immediately with the virus response, will aid economic rebuilding, and will ensure that the government won’t be caught flat-footed against the next crisis.”
He suggested the president should issue executive orders to permanently repeal recently waived regulations that were harming the coronavirus response, and requiring sunsets for new regulations so they don’t become obsolete.
“Agencies should publish annual regulatory report cards with standardized, searchable information on costs of existing and upcoming rules,” Mr. Crews said. “Congress and the president should establish an independent regulatory reform commission to comb through the 185,000-page Code of Federal Regulations and put together annual packages of old-timey rules to repeal. Congress should hold votes on new major agency regulations to make sure they are in line with congress’ legislation.”
CEI said spending this year has grown dramatically in response to the crisis, and the president’s own “regulatory impulses” including trade restrictions and corporate welfare “threaten those gains and undermine his deregulation goals.”
The report found that the average $1.9 trillion cost of federal regulation to each household exceeds $14,000 annually and is equivalent to more than 40% of total federal spending, which was $4.44 trillion in 2019.
The report said the number of new final rules under Mr. Trump is down significantly — 9,611 over three years.
The number of pages in the Federal Register, which serve as one measure on regulation, are fewer under Mr. Trump compared to his predecessor. Mr. Trump has averaged 66,490 pages per year, compared to Mr. Obama’s annual average of 80,420 pages per year.