Many federal regulations harm health or safety. So President Trump’s executive order today requiring “agencies to revoke two regulations for every new rule they want to issue” could potentially be quite beneficial. Revoking ill-conceived regulations could save hundreds of thousands of lives by expanding access to organ transplants, and new drugs and therapies. Currently, there are federal regulations that impede smoking cessation devices needed to reduce the death toll from cigarettes, and make it harder to fight infectious diseases and control disease-carrying pests. Other U.S. regulations cost thousands of lives in developing countries by driving up food prices and shrinking the food supply, which results in an increased death toll due to malnutrition and hunger-related diseases. Still other regulations have helped destabilize and impoverish war-torn regions where hunger is already widespread, such as regulations issued pursuant to the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act.
Other nations have gone much further than Trump’s “two-for-one” order, and benefited as a result. As The Hill newspaper notes, “the U.S. isn’t the first country to impose such a restriction on regulators. Trump could use similar policies in Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom as a model for his order. For every rule issued in the U.K., three existing rules must be eliminated. According to a U.K. government report, that requirement saved businesses £885 million from May 5, 2015 to May 26, 2016, or nearly $1.1 billion based on current conversion rates.”
The many unnecessary and harmful federal regulations need to be repealed. Not only the amount of regulation, but its rate of increase, went up under Obama, as federal regulation rapidly expanded in areas such as health care and financial regulation. The 2016 Federal Register’s record-setting page count was 97,110 pages—more than 15,000 pages above the previous record, set in 2010. Regulatory agencies issued 3,853 regulations in 2016, more than a 13 percent increase over 2015.
This flood of new regulations did nothing to improve Americans’ health. Indeed, as ABC News noted in December, “A decades-long trend of rising life expectancy in the U.S. could be ending: It declined last year and it is no better than it was four years ago.” The death rate increased by 1.2% in 2015, the most recent year for which data is available, and life expectancy fell. Female life expectancy dropped from 81.3 to 81.2 years, and male life expectancy fell from 76.5 to 76.3 years. The core elements of Obamacare, along with many new health-care regulations, went into effect in 2014.
My colleague Wayne Crews wrote about additional strategies that the White House can use to lift the federal regulatory burden in his recent Web Memo First Steps for the Trump Administration: Rein in the Regulatory State.