Welcome to the cesspool

Today President Trump signed an executive order titled REDUCING REGULATION AND CONTROLLING REGULATORY COSTS. This fulfills a campaign pledge to reduce burdensome regulation. On the face of it, I applaud the measure, especially the provision that says, “whenever an executive department or agency publicly proposes for notice and comment or otherwise promulgates a new regulation, it shall identify at least two existing regulations to be repealed.”

I suspect that the net effect of this order will be approximately zero, as far as business is concerned. In the first place, there are so many exceptions listed, it’s likely that any department head with a modicum of intelligence will get his proposals exempted from the new rules. And in the unlikely event that they do have to identify regulations to be repealed, they have a plethora of idiotic rules that are on the books and no longer enforced. It’ll take them years to clear that cruft from the books. So at best what we’ll see is large numbers of unenforced or unenforceable regulations being repealed. A Good Thing, no doubt, but not something that businesses will notice.

The Director of the Office of Management and Budget is tasked with specifying

“… processes for standardizing the measurement and estimation of regulatory costs; standards for determining what qualifies as new and offsetting regulations; standards for determining the costs of existing regulations that are considered for elimination; processes for accounting for costs in different fiscal years; methods to oversee the issuance of rules with costs offset by savings at different times or different agencies; and emergencies and other circumstances that might justify individual waivers of the requirements …”

It looks to me like the president’s order creates more regulations and more work, which probably will require increased expenses. I wonder if his order is subject to the new 1-for-2 rule.

I mentioned exceptions above. The order exempts:

  • regulations issued with respect to a military, national security, or foreign affairs function of the United States
  • regulations related to agency organization, management, or personnel
  • any other category of regulations exempted by the Director (of the OMB)

A savvy department head can probably make a good argument that any new regulation fits one of the first two. Failing that, being “in” with the Director of OMB will likely get you a pass.

Also, Section 5 states that the order will not “impair or otherwise affect”

  • the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof
  • the functions of the Director relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals

Oh, and the last part, Section 5(c) says:

“This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.”

In other words, this isn’t Law, but rather the president’s instructions to his subordinates.

The dog can’t bite; it can hardly growl. But the president can say that he “did something about the problem,” and thus get marks for keeping a campaign pledge.

So much for draining the swamp. This is the way things have been done in Washington for decades. Make a big deal signing a regulation with a feel-good title, but that does nothing (or, worse, does exactly the opposite of what you would expect), bask in the praise of your supporters, and then go about business as usual.

Welcome to the cesspool, Mr. President.

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