How President Trump Is Reining in the Regulators


America’s government is so large that no president can possibly make all the executive branch decisions that need to be made every day. We can and must change that, but shrinking the size and scope of the government will take time.

Still, an effective president can control the bureaucracy by setting out specific guidelines, hiring people who are eager to enforce those guidelines, and following up to make sure they are effective.

By this measure, President Donald Trump is doing fairly well. He is keeping his promise to reduce the burden of unnecessary regulations that slow economic growth and endanger small businesses.

On Oct. 11, Trump issued two key executive orders aimed at controlling the reach of the regulatory state. The goal is to prevent regulators from issuing “guidance” documents: unofficial memos that don’t follow the U.S. regulatory process but still force people and companies into compliance.

Consider the FDA, which once issued photographs showing restaurant menus that complied (and failed to comply) with the agency’s labeling guidance. In the future, bureaucrats could use those photographs to bring action against “noncompliant” operators. This is, clearly, unfair.

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Luckily, when it comes to reducing red tape, the administration is making a difference. It says it has “cut 14 regulations for every new significant regulation implemented.”

For example, there’s the Environmental Protection Agency. Liberals love to use the EPA to expand the reach of government; after all, nobody wants to be seen as being opposed to “protecting” the environment.

Under earlier administrations, the EPA used its power to harass Americans, such as the family it fined $75,000 per day for failing to comply with a bureaucratic order. Under Trump, though, the agency is showing some restraint. An internal report says the EPA cut 26 regulations in the last two years. It created four new ones, thus saving more than $96 million.

Other departments are also reducing regulations. A review by the non-partisan American Action Forum shows that several departments, including the Department of Health and Human Services ($9.3 billion), Department of Labor ($7.6 billion), Department of Transportation ($2.2 billion) and Department of the Interior ($1.5 billion) each saved more than $1 billion in fiscal year 2019.

However, the administration’s record isn’t perfect, and there are still some rogue agencies out there imposing big costs without savings. The AAF report notes that “the Department of the Treasury added the most net costs” last year.

A chunk of that comes from the obscure Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. Last year, bureaucrats at TTB issued Notice No. 176, the “Modernization of the Labeling and Advertising Regulations for Wine, Distilled Spirits, and Malt Beverages,” for consideration.

Despite the deregulatory-sounding name given to the massive new rule, it does little to modernize disclosures and regulations, as consumer groups have requested. Instead, it may impose more than double the number of existing regulations on manufacturers.

As a coalition of conservative organizations, including Campaign for Liberty, explained in a letter to President Trump, “This comes in stark violation to Executive Order 13771 that you signed on February 3, 2017, which directs all agencies to eliminate two regulations for each new one proposed.”

The administration may not have been aware that these bureaucrats were imposing such a heavy price, but they know now and can take steps to do something about it. That should include replacing The Bureau’s current administrators who are treating the law as optional.

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Only elected officials who must answer to voters should be imposing laws on Americans.

President Trump’s recent regulatory guidance is a step in the right direction, but his administration still has some work to do.

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Norm Singleton is the chairman of Campaign for Liberty. He previously served as an aide to Texas Rep. Ron Paul, and is a founding member of the Republican Liberty Caucus.