New President, New (Anti-)Red Tape Agenda

Federal regulators issue thousands of regulations every year. Decrees range from the Environmental Protection Agency’s gargantuan Clean Power Plan and “Waters of the United States” directives, down to regulations on breath mint serving sizes and multivitamins with selenium being treated as toxic waste.

All those regulations and commandments take a toll on jobs and businesses. Dealing with today’s regulatory monstrosities should be a priority, just as much as addressing the $19 trillion debt and runaway entitlement spending. But what can the next president of the United States really do?

By reinstating a Reagan-era executive order, freezing new regulations, and creating report cards on agencies’ regulation transparency, President-elect Trump can make strides in pushing back against harmful regulation.

President Obama famously boasted he would use his pen and phone if Congress wouldn’t go along, and he followed through. Now, president-elect Trump has taken on the red tape problem with a call for a freeze on new regulations paired with a major reduction of existing rules, and two regulations out for each one in.

Trump can use his “meataxe” to restrain the regulatory state, starting with reinstating a Ronald Reagan Executive Order that made a big difference in regulatory volume. Under Reagan, federal rules dropped from an all-time high of 7,745 to 4,589.

Reagan’s order insisted that new regulations’ benefits should outweigh their costs, or not be enacted at all. It also formalized the White House Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB’s) “audit” responsibilities.

That basic process still exists, but newer presidential orders “reaffirm(ed) the primacy of Federal agencies in the regulatory decision-making process” — in other words, they weakened regulatory review.

The Reagan order also allowed the OMB director to order a rule to be treated as “major” — for example, costing more than $100 million per year — even when agencies had not done so, triggering extra scrutiny.

The next president could go further.

During the 2012 election, Mitt Romney promised an executive order:

“Instructing all agencies that they must invite Congress to vote up or down on their major regulations and forbidding them from putting those regulations into effect without congressional approval.”

Executive orders won’t be a permanent solution; subsequent presidents can weaken them with the stroke of a pen. But they can allow a breather while more permanent legislative reforms are enacted.

Second, the president should follow through on his freeze on new regulations. Trump should halt rulemaking for a longer period of time, require more aggressive audits, publish the findings, and work with Congress to eliminate many rules altogether.

Third, the president should pursue an aggressive economic liberalization agenda with Congress, aimed at boosting jobs.

Legislative reforms matter most of all, particularly since agencies like the Federal Communications Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the Environmental Protection Agency have been out of control.

The agenda could start with Congress setting up a bipartisan Regulatory Reduction Commission to annually root out harmful and unnecessary regulations for Congress to cut. Congress could also send Trump legislation setting an expiration date on regulations, unless reauthorized by Congress.

We also need report cards on regulation transparency, to tally the number of rules, determine if they underwent cost analysis, and measure their impact on businesses and consumers. This can easily be done via Executive Order.

We live in a time of regulation without representation. That must change if we want to spur economic growth, expand opportunity, and give people more control over their lives and livelihoods. President-elect Trump can and should lead the way for crucial regulatory reforms.

Originally posted at The Hill