Among the myths propagated by apologists is that President Trump has unleashed a spurt of growth through deregulation. This is wrong on two counts: Growth underperformed in 2017, and his deregulation crusade is looking more suspicious every day.
Trump appears to be counting ”regulatory actions” so many of the items being delayed or withdrawn were not regulations yet. According to a Bloomberg News analysis, almost a third of the regulatory reversals actually began under earlier presidents. “Others strain the definition of lessening the burden of regulation or were relatively inconsequential, the kind of actions government implements routinely,” Bloomberg reported.
In fact, it is unclear whether Trump has cut more regulations in his first year than any other president. When the Fact Checker examined this question, experts said that the amount of withdrawn regulations is not necessarily the best metric, because these are rules that never went into effect. Moreover, often it takes another rule to repeal a previous rule. Research by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University shows that regulatory restrictions actually grew during Trump’s first year, but at a much slower pace than other presidents in their first year.
The Mercatus Center is a premier libertarian economic entity so its finding of a mixed bag should carry great weight: “Regulations are still growing, though at a slower pace. The momentum of the regulatory state — a collection of hundreds of departments, agencies, and suboffices — continues in the direction of always making more rules.”
Moreover, evaluating the quality of the regulatory moves is another matter. If they favored one industry over another or simply eliminated lines in the Federal Register that apply to no one that’s “deregulation” in name only. “While some regulatory actions may be purely regulatory or purely deregulatory, many actions are both. The net effect could mean an increase in the quantity of regulations on the books or in the burden each regulation imposes, or the effect could go the other direction. Similarly, an action that has a net regulatory or net deregulatory effect could have either a very small impact or an enormous impact, depending on the nature of the changes the action induces.”
So how’d the administration do on the quality side? “The numbers don’t show a massive deregulation — in fact, they show that the quantity of regulatory restrictions actually grew. But it grew by less than we might have expected based on historical patterns.” You don’t get a growth spurt from slowing the growth in the number of regulations, or increasing the number of restrictions.
Finally, there is good reason to question whether regulatory decisions are being made based on the available facts, or on pure ideology and donor payback. CNN reported last week:
A group of scientists is suing the Environmental Protection Agency over the agency’s move to cut scientists from advisory boards and committees who were also receiving federal grants for studies.
In October, the EPA announced it would not allow scientists to serve on EPA boards if they were also receiving federal grants in an attempt to keep the advisers “independent and free from any real, apparent or potential interference with their ability to objectively serve as a committee member,” an EPA news release said. However, scientists involved in the lawsuit argue the announcement was unnecessary and violates the Federal Advisory Committee Act.
If you lose independent-minded scientists, chances are your regulations will be based on politics and not science. There are, after all, “good regulations” that even reasonable Republicans would say are well-advised. If you cut those — and, say, cause more industrial accidents — it is no cause for celebration, nor does it contribute to economic growth.
As we have noted, the Trump spinners defend voting for a racist, anti-democratic know-nothing by using a list of “accomplishments” to justify their support. Trump policy items in no way compare to the damage he has caused. And moreover, the “accomplishments” seem to come from White House talking points — with very little to back them up and/or without examining whether the plans (e.g., taxes, regulations) are either good plans or just whatever Trump could get through. Conservatives who are bragging about Trump’s economic results and actions need to exercise better quality control.