Leashes Off: Breaking Down Trump’s Deregulation Agenda
In the few months since Donald Trump took office as President of the United States, Trump has acted quickly to unravel many of the regulatory laws put into place by the Obama administration. The new government has thus far eliminated around 90 regulations, and the President continues to sign off on attempts to cut regulation even further. One such effort was an executive order requiring that two current regulations be discarded for every new one introduced. President of the US Chamber of Commerce Thomas J. Donohue, who is opposed to government interference, praised the elimination of certain regulations as enacted by Congress and President Trump in a public memo. Trump’s efforts have focused on economic, environmental, pharmaceutical, and various industry-related areas; some of these began in response to industry protests. Below, The Politic outlines some of Trump’s major deregulatory actions during his time in office thus far, then provides analysis on Trump’s deregulation strategy as of right now.
Executive Order Minimizing the Economic Burden of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Pending Repeal
January 20th, 2017
After being sworn into office, President Trump immediately set out to dismantle parts of the Affordable Care Act, one of the largest legislative legacies of the Obama administration. The first executive order he signed was intended to, “to minimize the unwarranted economic and regulatory burdens of the Act, and prepare to afford the States more flexibility and control to create a more free and open healthcare market,” according to the language contained in the order. However, the wording of the order is unclear and doesn’t seem to grant any more powers to the executive branch than what it already has.
Howard Forman, a Professor of Health Policy at the Yale School of Management, told The Politic that the order “certainly sends a strong signal…as to what their priorities are and how they see future enforcement of legislative policy.” However, he noted that it is unclear if the order in and of itself will have a significant impact. In Professor Forman’s opinion, of more relevance is President Trump’s choice for the United States Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price. This pick, he explained, sends a stronger signal about the future of the legislation.
Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies
January 20th, 2017
In an executive order passed on the same day as the order regarding the Affordable Care Act, President Trump froze all further regulations until his administration (or an agency appointed by the Administration) approves them. The exceptions to this freeze are regulations regarding health, safety or national and financial security matters. This order does not undo any past laws, but has slowed down the implementation of new ones and will allow the administration to eliminate any with which it disagrees.
Presidential Executive Order on Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs
January 30th, 2017
To be “financially responsible in the expenditure of funds, from both public and private sources,” President Trump signed into law an executive order requiring any governmental agency that wishes to add a new regulation to discard two past regulations. This functions in two ways: by disincentivizing regulators from pursuing further regulations, and by eliminating a net total of one regulation each time a new one is to be implemented.
Presidential Executive Order on Core Principles for Regulating the United States Financial System
February 03, 2017
A rule often termed “Fiduciary Duty,” passed as part of the Dodd-Frank Act, demands that financial advisors act in their clients’ best interests. As part of his plan to cut back on financial regulations, President Trump has excised this requirement. The executive order in which this excision appears also outlines a set of “core principles” relating to financial regulation; these principles lay the foundation for the repeal of the Dodd-Frank law which was passed following the Great Recession and was meant to protect consumers and regulate the activities of entities on Wall Street.
Presidential Executive Order on Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda
February 24, 2017
To ensure that these regulatory cuts are being executed, President Trump signed another order which demands every agency designate a Regulatory Reform Officer (RRO). The RRO’s job is to “oversee the implementation of regulatory reform initiatives and policies to ensure that agencies effectively carry out regulatory reforms.”
Presidential Executive Order on a Comprehensive Plan to Reorganize the Executive Branch
March 13th, 2017
Most recently, the Trump Administration moved to restructure and trim down the executive branch. In his latest action, the President instructed the Director of the Office of Management and Budget to propose a plan that would “reorganize governmental functions and eliminate unnecessary agencies… components of agencies and agency programs.” Such a move allows for further regulatory reductions.
These documents reveal that industry lobbyists have capitalized on the Trump Administration’s eagerness to limit the government’s regulatory capacities. The Administration’s revoking of such rules can have serious effects on the daily lives of the American people, the environment, and the economy. For example, an FCC rule requiring telecommunication companies like Verizon to “take reasonable measures to protect customer [proprietary information] from unauthorized use, disclosure, or access,” was recently discarded by the Trump Administration following industry dissent. What this means is that these telecommunication providers will not have to take measures to protect consumer’s social security data, credit card information (if stored), web browsing history and other personal information. This is disastrous on all accounts, especially given the rise in data breaches.
In another example, Social Security Administration (SSA) data will no longer be used to identify those with disabling mental health issues and subsequently block them from owning guns after the National Rifle Association (NRA) objected to the rule. In the past, those who are registered as having a disabling mental illness in the SSA could not purchase guns; recently, however, the President signed a resolution passed by Congress that revoked the rule.
Trump also abandoned a host of protective environmental regulations following industry objections. The NRA similarly pushed for the repeal of a law banning the use of lead-based ammunition. A primary source of lead – a highly toxic chemical – for both animals and humans comes from the lead in ammunition, according to a study published by the National Institute for Health. The Mining Industry also notified the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that it objected to regulations that would require mining companies to reserve money for use in cleaning up mines, and that the administration should reject or at least delay the rule. Soon after the companies lobbied against the regulation, the new head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt, responded a month after that assenting to the delay.
Associate Director of the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy Lisa Dale spoke with The Politic regarding environmental policy and regulation under the new administration.
“Regulations happen primarily at the federal level… [but] states have a lot of ability to push back in some sense in that they can keep and ramp up their regulatory laws. Already we can see that state and local governments are really on the front lines of these issues.”
Part of this is due to the realization that local communities are more susceptible to the effects of climate change. Dale also noted that unlike the federal government, state and local authorities are more “agile.” That is, it takes less time to create and implement policies on smaller scales than on a federal one. This is because federal legal processes are more complex; developing policies to fit the demographics of a large nation is by nature more difficult.
However, Dale pointed out that federal regulations serve as a sort of “scaffolding” that outlines the minimum that the state governments must do for environmental regulation, and what type of actions they should take. States can and do go beyond this “floor” of what is required; but where state and local governments cannot take action, these federal policies are critical. When federal environmental regulations disappear, there arise inequalities in measures taken.
“Some States need a federal ‘floor,’ predominantly in the south and midwest, where there might be less political will or fewer resources to accomplish environmental actions,” said Dale.
In a video released by the White House, Trump commented on his new administration’s goals with regards to energy, saying, “I will cancel job-killing restrictions on the production of American energy – including shale energy and clean coal – creating many millions of high-paying jobs.”
What this means is still unclear. According to Dale, Trump has little ability to bring back coal or increase oil and gas production because market forces are behind the decrease in gas and oil production, not regulation. Depreciating oil and gas prices have disincentivized production of these commodities.
“It’s not economically feasible for companies to drill for these resources when they don’t get returns on them. Trump has no real control over these forces,” Dale told The Politic.
Although Trump has professed a desire to eliminate unnecessary regulations and agencies and has taken measures to do so, he cannot single-handedly accomplish this, nor can he stop local and regional authorities from enacting regulations. As made evident by this brief overview, Trump’s efforts are often vague, but they lay the foundations for deregulation in the future. His administration has also proven indicated it is willing to accommodate industry requests with regards to regulation.