It was odd that a seemingly boring campaign line calling for fewer federal regulations would win applause, but candidate Donald Trump's promise was cheered so loudly last year that President Trump made it an early priority in his administration.
And it appears that he is delivering big time, especially on his pledge to kill two regulations for every new one issued. According to a tally provided by the free-market Competitive Enterprise Institute, the president has issued fewer rules than any other president since Ronald Reagan and cut the costs of those regulations significantly.
The American Action Forum, a conservative think tank that charts federal policy and rules, called Trump's regulatory freeze "historic."
CEI's Clyde Wayne Crews Jr. said federal agencies haven't seen such a shift away from red tape since former President Ronald Reagan arrived in Washington in 1981.
Through last Wednesday, Trump has issued 1,063 rules. During the comparable period, former President Barack Obama issued 1,139 rules.
But Crews pointed out that in government, it takes a rule to kill a rule, so Trump's impactful new rules are likely much lower. "Since rule reductions look like rules, too, the reduction in regulation under Trump is more dramatic than what the raw counts can depict," Crews said.
From his report provided to Secrets:
Trump's mode so far is regulating bureaucrats rather than regulating the private sector, with rules to limit their rules. Even more importantly, more unswervingly than any other, the administration has incorporated regulatory dark matter into reforming the administrative state in both his freeze and the two-out requirement. This material consists of all the memoranda, guidance, notices, bulletins and other proclamations (including threats and bad publicity) with which bureaucrats create or influence policy, but that escape the (already inadequate) discipline of the 1946 Administrative Procedure Act.
All this seems significant in terms of history of the regulatory state. The drop between Clinton and Bush was dramatic, but otherwise last time we saw anything comparable to today's reduction was when both regulations and Federal Register page counts dropped over a third under Reagan.
Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org