By Heidi Shierholz, Economic Policy Institute
President Trump is scheduled to give a speech later this morning about his administration’s regulatory agenda. Given the administration’s statements and actions since Trump took office in January—one of his first actions after taking office was to issue an executive order requiring federal agencies to identify at least two existing regulations to “repeal” when proposing a new regulation—there is little doubt about what any speech by this president on regulation will contain.
Watch for false claims that government regulations cost jobs. The truth is that research on the relationship between employment and regulations generally finds that regulations have a modestly positive, or simply neutral, effect on employment. Though regulations sometimes reduce jobs in one area, they create jobs in another. For example, factories making lead paint shut down after regulations banning lead paint were issued in the late 1970s, but enterprises manufacturing lead-free alternatives arose in their place. And some of the older factories hired people to retool their machinery to begin manufacturing lead-free paint. Importantly, the lack of sensible regulations can do major damage to the economy and cost jobs. One recent, devastating example was the housing bubble, and the financial and economic crisis of 2008 and 2009 that ensued when the bubble burst, resulting in the loss of nearly 9 million jobs. Deregulation and lax enforcement based on the belief that financial markets could “self-regulate” played a major role in this crisis.
Watch for false claims that the costs of regulation outweigh the benefits. The truth is that while there are costs associated with regulations, they tend to be dramatically outweighed by benefits—federal regulations typically provide huge net benefits (benefits minus costs) to society. Federal agencies are required to undertake a cost-benefit analysis when issuing a major rule, and each year the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) reports to Congress on the costs and benefits of federal regulations. In its most recent report, OMB found that during the last administration, from January 21, 2009, to September 20, 2015, the estimated annual net benefits of major federal regulations was between $103 and $393 billion. In other words, these regulations are providing an overall benefit to society of over $100 billion per year.
Watch for a prioritizing of corporate concerns ahead of American people. Trump is advancing an anti-regulatory agenda with little consideration for the benefits of these regulations to workers, consumers, and the environment. In his speech later this morning, watch for a willingness to place corporate concerns ahead of the American people by targeting for repeal rules that provide broad benefits in terms of public health, environmental protections, and worker protections that vastly outweigh the compliance costs for businesses.