Nelson A. Pryor: Guest Columnist
With the realization that a president can’t do anything that a Congress won’t allow, our President Donald J. Trump has had a great first year. This is what he has accomplished: passed a long-promised rewrite of the tax code, more oil drilling, and a series of lifetime appointments to the federal judiciary.
The President promised to upend Washington, and drain the swamp, by reducing the influence of Johnny Red Tape.
The far-reaching rollback of rules was officially announced on Dec. 14, 2017. The Dec. 15, 2017 New York Times, p. 16a, said: “We are just getting started.” The President described progress so far as the “most far-reaching regulatory reform” in these united States history.
“We have decades of excess regulation to remove,” he added. “To help launch the next phase of growth, prosperity and freedom, I am challenging my cabinet to find and remove every single outdated, unlawful and excessive regulation currently on the books.”
Echoing his days as a real estate developer with the flair of a groundbreaking, President Trump used an oversize pair of scissors to cut a ribbon his staff had set up in front of two piles of paper, representing government regulations in 1960 (20,000 pages, he said), and today-a pile that was about six feet tall (said to be 185,000 pages).
His efforts-his staff said that the rules already rolled back had saved $8.1 billion in regulatory costs over their lifetime, or a total of an estimated $570 million a year-have brought cheers to farmers and the self-employed.
Several economic indicators-and comments from companies - large and small - suggest that a shift in federal regulatory policy is building business confidence and accelerating economic growth, developments President Trump noted as helping to restore America.
A survey of chief executives released this month by the Business Roundtable found that, for the first time in six years; executives no longer anticipated regulations as the top cost pressure facing companies.
“CEO’s appear to be responding to the administration’s energetic focus on regulation,” Joshua Bolten, the roundtable’s president, said this month.
In total, the administration has so far formally revoked 67 rules, according to Neomi Rao, the head of the White House agency that oversees rulemaking, while 635 planned regulations were withdrawn, 244 regulations that had been proposed were put on “inactive” status and another 700 regulations were “delayed.”
Mrs. Rao has been tasked to require agencies to submit an annual “regulatory budget.” In fiscal year 2018, the budget target is a net reduction in regulatory costs. This has been a goal of regulatory watchdogs for years because it forces agencies to think twice about proposing new rules. And if they do, then they need to eliminate regulatory costs somewhere else. If enforced with rigor, this could be the most important check on the bureaucracy since Franklin D. Roosevelt invented the modern administrative state.
Congress has also helped with unprecedented use of the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to nullify 14 Obama-era rules. The CRA had only been used once before, in 2001 to nix a late Bill Clinton rule.
Rule making - which created “enforcement traps, waiting to spring on the innocent,” should be history, if President Trump gets his way.