December 29, 2017 9:27AM

Deregulation vs. More Regulation in the Trump Administration

This is from Marc Thiessen, writing in the Washington Post:

Trump inherited a regulatory state that had grown to unprecedented levels under President Barack Obama. One way to measure the growth in regulations is by counting the number of pages in the Federal Register, the book the government publishes containing all new regulations. Seven of the eight largest annual page totals in American history occurred under Obama. Before Obama, no president had ever exceeded 80,000 pages in the Federal Register. In 2016, Obama became the first president to break the 90,000-page mark—96,702, to be exact—and if you add his last 20 days in office, the total reaches 103,432.

Trump cut that number nearly in half. From Jan. 23 through Dec. 19 of this year, he has added just 53,550 pages to the Federal Register. And many of those pages were not new regulations but announcements of regulations being withdrawn. His efforts exceeded even those of President Ronald Reagan, who cut Federal Register pages by more than one‐​third during his time in office.

This sounds like good news, although perhaps it is partly due to the Trump administration taking a while to get its bearings during its first year. If it ever gets around to infrastructure, as Trump keeps threatening, we may see a lot more regulating. In addition, I thought it was worth pointing out that in trade policy, we are going in the opposite direction, as the Trump administration proudly proclaims the increase in regulatory actions it is taking. Here’s something from a recent press release from the Commerce Department:

Enforcement of U.S. trade law is a prime focus of the Trump administration. From January 20, 2017, through December 18, 2017, Commerce initiated 79 antidumping and countervailing duty investigations—a 52 percent increase from 52 initiations in the previous year. 

To clarify, there is an existing set of laws and regulations that allow companies and unions to petition the U.S. government to impose extra tariffs on their foreign competitors, in the form of antidumping and countervailing duties. There may be multiple reasons for the increase pointed out by the Commerce Department, and much of this would likely have happened even under a President Hillary Clinton. Nevertheless, when you hear people tout Trump’s push for lessening the burden of regulation, keep in mind that with trade policy, we are seeing a regulatory expansion, including the investigations noted above, as well as, potentially, other new measures under consideration.