REPORT: Regulations Cost US Nearly $2 Trillion, Despite Trump’s Rollbacks

Michael Bastasch | Contributor

President Donald Trump’s regulatory rollback saved Americans $700 million, but there’s still a lot of red tape to cut, according to free market Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI)’s new report.

Federal regulations cost the U.S. $1.9 trillion in 2017, coming out to nearly $15,000 “hidden tax” on every American, CEI’s Wayne Crews reported in the 2018 edition of “Ten Thousand Commandments,” a report on government rules.

Trump issued an executive order in January 2017 to prioritize shrinking the federal regulatory apparatus. The White House instituted a policy to repeal two existing regulations for each new one implemented and imposed a freeze on rule-making.

Congress also helped, passing 15 bills to repeal Obama-era regulations under the Congressional Review Act, including rules on mining and forcing oil companies to disclose payments to foreign governments.

Trump’s regulatory rollbacks cut compliance costs, but that’s only the tip of the regulatory iceberg, Crews said.  Regulatory costs exceeded the total income tax revenue the IRS collects.

Indeed, 34 regulations are issued for every law Congress passes passed, which is one reason lawmakers need to address regulatory reform to address overregulation, Crews argued.

“Without congressional action, much of the Trump streamlining phenomenon will be transitory,” Crews wrote. “Longer-lasting regulatory reform will require action by Congress.”

Though, the White House did stem the regulatory tide that peaked during the Obama administration. The 2017 Federal Register only reached 61,308 pages — the lowest since 1993, Crews reported.

The Federal Register hit an all-time record of 95,894 pages in 2016 during the Obama administration. Trump’s presidency has so far seen a 36 percent drop in Federal Register pages.

However, agencies have more than 3,200 regulations in the pipeline at various stages of development. Trump, on the other hand, only finalized 67 deregulatory actions — these will save $700 million a year, according to the White House.

Trump’s critics have called deregulation a “myth” since the regulatory state grew but at a slower rate. “[Y]ou don’t get a growth spurt from slowing the growth in the number of regulations or increasing the number of restrictions,” The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin said.

Trump took “credit for killing or delaying rules that were pending and hadn’t gone into effect, including more than 100 that were already dead under Obama,” Bloomberg News noted.

At least 22 of the 67 deregulatory actions “were adapted from efforts begun under Obama, often with little or no change, according to records,” Trump claimed, according to Bloomberg.

That same criticism has been extended to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt — who claims to have completed 22 deregulatory actions totalling $1 billion.

“Most of Pruitt’s actions are in the proposal stage, and many are years away from being finalized” and “Pruitt’s biggest achievement is that he appears successful,” The New Republic’s Emily Atkin argued.

Existing federal rules can take months or even years to unwind depending on how far-reaching they are. The EPA, for example, began the process of repealing two major Obama-era regulations on power plant emissions and waterways.

Finalizing the repeal of the Clean Power Plan and “waters of the United States” rule will take time and will likely be challenged in court. Indeed, environmentalists have vowed to do just that.

“We, and millions of Americans, will fight in every way to ensure the president acts in our best interests, not in the interests of polluters’ profits,” Natural Resources Defense Council President Rhea Suh said in a statement issued when the Clean Power Plan repeal was announced October 2017.

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