Good Government

Ray Carter | July 25, 2019

Trump deregulation gets praise, but officials say more needed

Ray Carter

As a candidate, Donald Trump vowed to target excessive regulation. As president, he signed an executive order requiring agencies to repeal two regulations for every new one implemented. Officials in Oklahoma and elsewhere praise the progress since made on deregulation, but caution that much work remains.

“It’s definitely progress, and it’s definitely historic,” said James Broughel, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, “but it could go a lot further.”

At a recent event hosted by The Heritage Foundation, Russ Vought, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, said the president has exceeded his two-out-one-in goal.

“Since the beginning of the administration, we’ve had $33 billion in cost savings from deregulatory efforts thus far,” Vought said. “Instead of the two-for-one goal the president gave us, last year we hit 13-for-one.”

He said the cited cost savings “don’t really even get at kind of the ripple effects throughout the economy.”

“We’re doing really well on that front,” Vought said.

At that same event, Doug Hoelscher, deputy assistant to the president and director of intergovernmental affairs, said the savings from deregulation equal $3,100 per household, per year.

“That’s real money, probably for everybody in this room,” Hoelscher said.

Fred Morgan, president and CEO of The State Chamber of Oklahoma, said several sectors of the Oklahoma economy have benefitted from the Trump administration’s deregulation efforts, including oil and gas, health care, insurance, transportation, agriculture, and banking. Those sectors have benefitted from regulatory changes that have done everything from ease water regulations to making creation of association health plans practical.

Morgan said the message sent by the administration on regulation also boosts business confidence.

“Sometimes the spirit is almost as important as the actual results,” Morgan said. “I think it gives business leaders more confidence, an optimism, when there’s an administration that’s not trying to put new rules and regulations in place, that is actively trying to repeal those that are unnecessary and burdensome.”

That’s a viewpoint shared by Broughel.

“I also think there’s a confidence effect,” Broughel said. “The Trump administration talks more supportive of business. That makes people more confident, willing to invest. And there’s been a slowdown of new rulemaking activity in general. I would call it historic. There’s been a historic slowdown in new rulemaking activity.”

But Broughel says citizens need to pay attention to the fine print regarding claims of reduced regulation from the federal government. He said some statistics cited by the Trump administration “can be a little misleading,” noting the two-for-one goal applies only to what are defined as “significant” regulations. That subgroup compromises just 7 percent to 8 percent of all federal regulations.

As a result, the number of total regulations has continued to climb even as the administration has targeted the number of “significant” regulations.

“They’re actually not having much success in reducing the overall stock of regulations,” Broughel said.

Even so, he said “that there are economic benefits from the regulations they have removed, and some that they’re in the process of changing,” pointing to the Trump administration’s repeal of “net neutrality” regulations that stymied broadband investment and its efforts to roll back some environmental regulations as examples.

Oklahoma officials recently stressed the need for even greater deregulation during a hearing conducted by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Small Business’ Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Tax, and Capital Access.

Christopher Jordan, president and chief executive officer of The Farmers State Bank in Stigler, spoke on behalf of the Independent Community Bankers of America

“The exponential growth of regulation in recent years is suffocating community banks’ ability to serve their small business customers,” Jordan said. “Compliance has become a major distraction for community bank managers. In recent years, my job as a community banker has fundamentally shifted from lending and serving customers to struggling to stay on top of ever-changing rules and guidance.”

Jordan said excessive regulation have “contributed significantly to the decrease of 2,332 community banks in the U.S. since 2010.”

“The number of banks with assets below $100 million shrunk by 52 percent, while the number of banks with assets between $100 million and $1 billion fell by 24 percent,” Jordan said. “A financial landscape with fewer, larger banks will reduce access to credit for small businesses.”

Howard L. Ground, director of regulatory affairs for The Petroleum Alliance of Oklahoma, pointed out that there are 71 federal agencies that regulate large and small businesses, “and each of them routinely change regulations and policies requiring businesses to constantly track and make changes to their operations or plans.”

He noted the Environmental Protection Agency “currently has 151 rules and policy changes in various stages of rulemaking,” while the federal Department of Transportation has 214, the Department of the Interior has 236, and the Department of Labor has 62.

Morgan said the success, or failure, of deregulation efforts will have a significant impact on the viability of many Oklahoma businesses.

“While rules and regulations are a drag on business, on big businesses, they are almost the death knell of small businesses,” Morgan said. “Every mandate, every rule and regulation that small business has to put up with means somebody is not being productive because they’re dealing with unnecessary rules, regulations and mandates. And so I think it’s critical to small businesses who have very slim profit margins. It can destroy them if the government gets too heavy handed with rules and regulations.”

Ray Carter Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter

Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.

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