One of the most successful policy achievements of the Trump administration and the 115th Congress has been rolling back excessive federal regulations.
The synergy between the executive and legislative branches has helped stymie a veritable wave of onerous and dubious regulatory actions that would have negatively affected businesses, taxpayers, families, and individuals just trying to make ends meet.
Since the 1970s, the power and reach of the administrative state has grown exponentially. A recent report by the Competitive Enterprise Institute shows that the total cost of compliance with federal regulations in 2017 was roughly $1.9 trillion. That cost is passed on to consumers through higher prices for goods, services and utilities.
At the beginning of 2017, the White House issued a series of executive orders that temporarily froze and constrained the promulgation of new regulations from the vast federal bureaucracy that comprises the administrative state: the dozens upon dozens of departments, agencies, bureaus, and commissions within the executive branch. Congress hit the accelerator as they passed 15 Congressional Review Act resolutions that targeted specific Obama-era regulations for repeal.
Some of the infamous regulations that deservedly went down in flames due to the Congressional Review Act include two Department of Interior rules aimed at further regulating landowners and how they use their property, two Department of Education rules centralizing federal teaching standards and inhibiting state education flexibility, and two Department of Labor rules that would have used employee savings as a catalyst to enrich politically favored investments.
Unsurprisingly, resistance from the vast federal bureaucracy to these actions has been stiff.
Also unsurprisingly, a great deal of deregulatory work remains. The White House and Congress should continue their push to move Washington out of the way of the American people.
This can be done by revitalizing an old idea, modernizing it, and equipping it with some teeth to go after the bureaucracy.
One of President Reagan’s initiatives to roll back waste, fraud and abuse in Washington was the Grace Commission. It was a commission comprised of private entities, led by businessman Peter Grace, that combed through the bureaucracy to identify federal waste.
Created in 1982, the commission’s final report came out in 1984. Sadly, very little of the commission’s findings were acted upon despite projections that their recommendations would, ironically, save$1.9 trillion per year by the year 2000 if enacted.
President Trump should revisit a Grace Commission-style approach to regulation. The administration should appoint key conservative leaders to oversee the project, tap elements of their policy team, including the hard workers at the Office of Management and Budget to participate. And most importantly, they should bring in private sector representatives from key industries to help identify the federal rules that are inhibiting their growth, bringing undue hardship on their businesses, and burdening households.
And unlike the Grace Commission, this effort should be given real teeth to force congressional action and force the national conversation.
This means tapping regulatory lawyers who can comb through the Federal Register and work side-by-side with the private sector voices to dramatically scale back government. This means appropriate messaging coming from the new commission — messaging that rightly focuses on how this deregulation will create jobs, restore the rule of law, empower states, and most importantly let people prosper.
It means empowering the OMB and the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs to release quarterly reports on the commission’s recommendations and the undeniably positive economic impact such actions would have for the American people.
And perhaps most critically, it means having the commission make specific recommendations for executive, congressional, and state action so that the White House can move immediately within their constitutional boundaries to roll back the administrative state through executive action while providing a no-excuses road map for Congress to emulate.
Most commissions in Washington are little more than hamster wheels — meaningless exercises in pontificating that work more like a show horse rather than a work horse. The steps laid out above are necessary to prevent this new regulatory reform commission from becoming yet another symbolic exercise.
If implemented properly, such an approach would serve as a tremendous catalyst for reining in the bureaucrats who are largely unaccountable to the American people. It would create a long-lasting economic boom that will create jobs and help begin the process to pay down our $21 trillion debt. And it would begin the renewal necessary to restore and expand liberty for all Americans.
The infrastructure and idea is already in place.
All that remains is assembling the pieces and the will to act.
This commentary was originally featured in The Hill on May 17, 2018.