Sunday, April 30, 2017

Is Trump Really Cutting Regulations?

Regular readers know that I've been pushing the idea of killing off regulations, and putting a sunset date (expiration date) on all new Federal regulations.  Early on, and at the start of his administration, President Trump said he was going to require that agencies delete two old regulations for every new one.

How can we tell if it's happening?   For one thing, I'd expect the pace of new regulations to be declining.  That seems like it should be one outcome.  The other aspect, deleting two for every new one, seems harder to quantify.

Back in January, I grabbed this screen save from our old stomping grounds,
The file was saved on inauguration day, January 20th.  Notice the number posted in the last 90 days of Obama's administration was 6313 new regulations.

This weekend was, of course, the 100 day benchmark, so it was a natural day to compare.
Notice this one says 5477 in the past 90 days.  That's a 836 fewer regulations, a 13% decrease in the 90 day number, and the lowest 90 day total I can recall ever seeing. 

The first time I posted about visiting was in March of 2012, so just over five years ago.   While I neglected to write the real numbers down for every visit, a search for in this blog's search engine (upper left of the page) shows that during the Obama years the number was approximately 6000 regulations every 90 days (every quarter).  That corresponds to 24,000 per year and 192,000 regulations during his eight years.  That's an estimate pulled from a PFA average based on infrequent visits to the website.  The highest number I ever saw was in September of 2012, between Benghazi and the election, when 6417 were posted.  Maybe they were trying to get a bunch more regulations put in place in case they got a new boss who sends them home? 

I'm reminded of the old joke, "What do you call a thousand lawyers on the bottom of the sea? ... A good start".  In this case, that's the answer to "what do you call 13% fewer regulations in 90 days".   It's a good start.  I'd like to figure out how many regulations are being deleted because I think that could be the big story. 

For quite some time, the most popular post I had on this blog was a long 2010 post about the consequences of regulations growing like weeds.  I wrote then:
Although the legislators and regulators never consider this, every regulation consumes some amount of time and money to comply with.  The new Finance Reform [reference to Dodd-Frank - SiG] bill has been estimated to required the development of 250-300 new regulations.  Every regulation slows down, hinders and costs every honest business real money.  Despite the widespread talk of corrupt CEOs and general lack of corporate ethics, I've been working in the manufacturing industry since the mid 1970s, and every company has had an active, if not aggressive, ethics compliance program with requirements for training and seminars every year.  There are exceptions but most companies do their best to be honest and law-abiding.  Government seems to think it's mere coincidence that countries with lower tax rates and lower regulation attract business, and they demonize companies for moving to countries where the environment is better.
Regulation and litigation are sand in the gears of society. Big, sharp, 40 grit silicon carbide abrasive particles that grind the gears and shafts away. [Emphasis added - SiG]
Thanks to his non-government background, Trump has a very good feel for the impacts of excessive regulations.  If he can reduce the burden and expense of these regulations he could leave a lasting legacy.   It's a good start.
Photo by Senator Mike Lee.  The 2-1/2 columns of stacked paper are over 80,000 pages of new Federal regulations passed in 2013.  On the top of the case, the small pile of papers is the actual laws passed by congress.


  1. We can't form a "skunkworks country" that can get around our laws and create a more mobile, productive society.

    Sure we can. Home Improvement stores exist for homeowners to evade building permits. Uber to evade taxi licenses. Remote work to evade labor laws. ebay to evade FCC electronic device testing and product safety liability.

    Now we just need to invent X to evade taxation and Y to evade policemen. X and Y trade off, do one of them well enough and the other is unnecessary.

    The personal defense weapon, the handgun, has barely changed in the last 100 years. Gun control has been successful at preventing the invention of Y. However, give a bitcoin competitor a mint mark, so Sam's bitcoins can be backed by Sam's metal coins, and there's your X.

  2. Does repeal of a regulation count as a regulation? I.E., is ``Regulation XYZ is hereby repealed'' going to be counted as another regulation on that site?

    If so, under Trump's goal of repealing two to impose one new, there would be a more than two thirds decline in new regulations hidden under that 13% drop in total (new and repealed together) proposed regulations.

    That assumes that the converged beaurocracies are actually adhering to Trump's stayed goal ...

    1. It's hard to say. I used the search function to look for that sort of proposed regulation, but didn't find any obvious examples. It returned about 25 results for the phrase "hereby repealed" but none of them were recent (we're talking years ago).

      My guess is that will happen, and it makes it harder to see if the regulation reduction is really happening.

  3. It stares one in the face for a bit before it hits you.

    Slowing the rate of increase is not a decrease.

    Just like the "budget cuts" where the press screamed bloody murder that a given line item getting a 5% increase instead of a 15% increase was a decrease.

    A smaller increase is still an increase. I want to see the number of new regulations have a negative sign on it.

    1. Slowing the rate of increase is not a decrease.

      Of course. I said it's a start, not that we're there.

      The complications are we don't know if they can or will post negative numbers, we don't know if agencies can rescind regulations without posting a regulation saying something else, and a few other complications.

      The purpose of is a central place where people can comment on proposed regulations. The Feds have a detailed process they're supposed to follow for implementing regulations (which they regularly break, but that's the Feds for you); they put the idea up for comments; issue a Notice of Proposed Rule Making and take comments on how their draft addresses the issue, then respond to the comments before they release the new rules. It leads me to think the most likely way regulations will be deleted will be by issuing something like, "we are removing obsolete rules xx.yyy sections zz through aa; it has been bb years since we've needed these rules".

      I hope not, but given how the Feds work, I wouldn't be surprised.

    2. I just needed to knee-jerk is all.

      Heck, even getting them to obey the comments portion of the Notice of Proposed Rule Making would help. I still don't have a written reply to my comment posted about ATF 41P.

    3. Not a problem.

      I've noticed that even when they follow the NPRM process, often it's just for appearance. That they're going to pass the rules is guaranteed before they open comments. Under the FCC, I've seen NPRMs with dozens of great comments from real industry experts completely ignored. Michael Powell, chair of the FCC under W and Colin Powell's son, was infamous for that.

  4. Most humans fall for political rulers who are bad boys. If citizens aren't getting their wishes cruely thrown back in their face, they don't get that tingle up their leg. Being politically dominated and then politically ravished by someone you're attracted to is scary and fun. Power is sexy.

    Consider instead how most people react when their plumber or builder or mechanic disregards their wishes. They're furious, and they act to stop their former agent getting away with it.