On Thursday, President Donald Trump celebrated his administration’s dedication to cutting government regulations, with a ceremony where he physically cut a huge strand of red tape. Corny, but impressive nonetheless.
“This excessive regulation does not just threaten our economy, it threatens our entire Constitution. And it does nothing, other than delay and cost much more,” President Trump declared. On the campaign trail, Trump had promised that for every new regulation, he would cut two old ones. On Thursday, he announced his administration had overshot that goal — annihilating 22 regulations for every new one.
In a statement that would make every small-government conservative glow with pride, the president declared, “Congress has abandoned much of its responsibility to legislate, and has instead given unelected regulators extraordinary power to control the lives of others.”
Conservatives have long complained of the way Congress really works. Rather than passing regulations directly so that individual congressmen are tied to every piece of government red tape, Congress passes a bill like the Clean Air Act. The act sets out a goal — Americans should have clean air — and sets up an agency to make rules to achieve that goal.
This practice separates the people’s representatives from the results of their lawmaking. If constituents complain, lawmakers can blame the agency, or promise to add yet another law to fix the problem in question. “So many of these enormous regulatory burdens were imposed on our citizens with no vote, no debate, and no accountability,” the president explained.
Trump articulated the problem with this principle, and the fact that it is a threat to the Constitution, which gives Congress — and only Congress — the ability to make laws. The Constitution did this in order to make the lawmakers accountable to the people. Regulation sidesteps this process.
Trump made another excellent point, however, declaring that “regulation is still taxation.” Many studies have suggested the average American family pays more in hidden regulatory costs than in direct taxes. A report this May estimated that if regulatory costs trickled down, they would leave the average American family with a $1,409 bill, in addition to the taxes they already pay.
“By ending excessive regulations, we are defending democracy, and draining the swamp,” the president declared. “Unchecked regulation undermines our freedoms and zaps our national spirit. It destroys our economy. So many companies that are destroyed by regulation. And it destroys jobs.”
“When Americans are free to thrive, innovate, and prosper, there is no challenge too great, nor task into large, and no goal beyond their reach,” Trump said. “We are a nation of explorers and pioneers and innovators and inventors, and regulations have been hurting that and hurting it badly.”
In a flourish, the president concluded, “So, together, let’s cut to the red tape. Let’s set free our dreams, and yes, let’s make America great again.”
Towards the end of the event, the president held up a diagram showing how difficult it would be to get the right permits for a highway or roadway. He had Chris Liddell, a New Zealand-born U.S. businessman who serves as the assistant to the president for strategic initiatives, hold up the diagram.
“You had to go through this process and it would take many years. Many, many years, right, Chris?” Trump asked. “You had to go through nine different agencies, make 16 different decisions under 29 different laws. It would take from 10-20 years, and in some cases, longer than that.”
“We want to take that process down to maybe one year. We have it down to two,” Trump said.
At last, he turned to the main event. The president stood between two large stacks of papers, one marked “1960” and the other marked “Today.” He explained that in 1960, the Code of Federal Regulations ran to 20,000 pages, but that today it runs to 185,000 pages.
Between the two massive stacks hung a long red ribbon, which Trump symbolically cut.
Donald Trump has cost the Republican Party a great deal. His hyperbole, pride, and declarations of “fake news” have complicated his presidency and led Democrats to call for his impeachment. His refusal to push for entitlement reform still weakens his small government credentials.
Even so, Trump’s commitment to cutting regulation and his choice of administration leaders have been nothing less than an inspiration to conservatives. Any president who cuts 1,500 regulations in less than a year deserves praise from libertarians and small-government conservatives, whatever his other faults.
Nevertheless, these reforms need to be accompanied by legislative action, not just in tax reform, but in reforms to entitlements and to the way Congress sets up the system of regulation in the first place. Trump is making powerful steps in the direction of smaller government, but a Democratic president could reverse these steps. Trump needs Congress to finish the job.
Click “Load More” to watch the red tape cutting — and the entire ceremony.