White House budget director Mick Mulvaney revealed at a news briefing in July that President Obama was holding a “secret list” of 860 proposed federal rules that he was hoping to implement while he was in office.
Cutting regulations has been one of the foundations of Trump’s economic program in his efforts to return the U.S. economy to an annual growth rate of 3 percent or more; a number that hasn’t been reached in 10 years.
To that end, federal agencies under Trump have withdrawn 469 proposed regulations from Obama’s list, and another 391 proposed regulations have been delayed for further evaluation.
While they were going through the books, Trump officials found pending proposals for regulatory rules on everything from hardwood plywood research to new requirements for contamination control in cattle slaughter operations.
“Back in 2011, they were doing their unified agenda. They had a bunch of things that they wanted to regulate. And what we’re hearing is that they just didn’t want to tell you about it,” said Mulvaney. “They thought it would be bad for their re-election prospects in 2012, so they created a secret list of regs that were not disclosed to you folks, and we are disclosing it.”
When Trump officials threatened to disclose the list, Mr. Mulvaney said, bureaucrats in various cabinet agencies “came up with those 860 things that we got rid of.”
“There will be no more of that,” said Mulvaney. “We will not have a secret list. We will not have a hidden list of regulations that we’re thinking about doing but we’re not going to tell you about. That’s going to end effective immediately. In fact, it already has ended.”
Mulvaney pointed out that in the last six months of Obama’s administration, they added $6.8 billion in new regulations. “The last six months, just over $6 billion,” he marveled, noting, “We had zero. In the first five months in their administration back in 2009, they had over $3 billion of new regs. We cleared the decks of $22 million of regs. So, we actually went the other way.”
During Mr. Trump’s first six months in office, he has eliminated 16 major regulations that had cost businesses at least $100 million per year each. He has introduced only one major regulation, pertaining to mercury in wastewater.
At a White House event featuring advances in U.S. pharmaceutical packaging, Trump said the drug industry and patients will soon benefit from fewer regulations at the Food and Drug Administration.
“Amazing things are happening there, and I think we’re going to be announcing some of them over the next two months,”said Trump. “We’re going to be streamlining, as we have in other industries, regulations so that advancements can reach patients quickly.”
A recent study by the conservative American Action Forum found that the President has released only 8 percent of the historical average of rules that were issued by Presidents Obama, George W. Bush and Clinton.
Mulvaney held up a thick stack of paper containing Obama regulations with both hands and confronted reporters at the White House, asking them, “Were you healthy and safe before this came out? Yes. And you’ll be healthy and safe when it’s gone.”
Mulvaney said that the previous administration often “fudged the numbers” when it proposed regulations.
“They either overstated the benefit or understated the cost,” he noted.
President Trump has promised a “two-for-one policy” on regulations, said Mulvaney, which means that for every new regulation introduced by Trump team, two old regulations would be eliminated. As a result, that policy has led to the removal of 860 rules.
The regulatory rollback has been a cooperative effort with congressional Republicans, who helped out early in his term by deploying the seldom-used Congressional Review Act to repeal the Obama-era rules.
“We’ve seen the largest regulatory rollback since Ronald Reagan, and there’s much more to come,” promised Sen. David Perdue (R-Georgia).
Two examples of how Trump will ease regulations can be witnessed at the Interior Department, which plans to reduce paperwork for outdoorsmen and fish restoration programs; and the Labor Department, which will streamline its approval process for new apprenticeship programs.
Most of these actions won’t make headlines, Mulvaney noted, but the impact of cutting red tape will go a long way towards improving the business climate and the lives of average Americans.
“None of them are very sexy,” he said of the 860 rules, portraying them “as a slow cancer that can come from regulatory burdens that we put on our people. It’s not going to change the world, but when you do that 860 times in the first six months, it can have a benefit.”
The conservative Competitiveness Enterprise Institute predicted this week that Mr. Trump would cut red tape this year on a significant scale. The group said that under Obama, typically 97,000 pages were printed annually in the Federal Register, a level that is likely to be cut by one-third under Trump.
Experts say that regulatory compliance costs American businesses about $2 trillion annually, and some have been are imposed without adequate public review.
Mulvaney said cutting red tape has to take place now in order to make economic growth of 3 percent sustainable.
“Our fear is that if we don’t get back there quickly, there will be people who never know what 3 percent means,” he said. “And I don’t think it should come as a surprise that there are some people who don’t want you to remember what 3 percent growth would be like, because it would be a tremendous sort of damnation of what happened in the previous administration.”