Center for Progressive Reform

The Trump Assault on Our Safeguards

Holding the White House Accountable

Among the few concrete elements of Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign platform was a clear call to roll back regulatory safeguards that protect our health, safety, and the environment. Once in office, he chose cabinet members who were like-minded and outspoken opponents of such protections, and he began working to roll back existing regulations while blocking new ones from being developed, gradually working toward weaker safeguards for all of us.

While conservatives in Congress worked to gum up the regulatory process by legislative means, President Trump has used the levers of his executive power to do the same, and he has also taken aim at specific regulations. His assault has included:

  • 2-for-1. An executive order requiring agencies that adopt a new regulation to identify for repeal two existing regulations with a total cost savings to industry that is at least equal to the cost of the new regulation. By definition then, the order completely ignores the benefits of regulation — lives saved, diseases avoided, jobs created, focusing only on the costs to industry. Without consideration of these benefits, of course, it is impossible to evaluate the quality of these rules. Rather, they would all look like an inevitable drain on society, which is precisely the misleading message its supporters in the administration aim to convey.
  • More lookback panels. Despite the Obama administration’s “regulatory lookback” program for identifying old and outdated rules to repeal, President Trump issued his own executive order requiring agencies to create intra-agency task forces to identify still more regulations for repeal. The order not only wastes agency staff time that could be devoted to enforcement, it creates yet another avenue for undoing needed safeguards.
  • Attacks on existing regulations. In apparent ignorance of the legal requirement that existing regulations cannot be undone without a thorough process — gathering information, drafting proposals, seeking comment, conducting cost-benefit analysis, and more — the president has directed agencies to begin undoing a number of specific regulations, including the Clean Power Plan, the Waters of the United States  rule, and safeguards on fracking and the chemical industry.
  • Defunding Regulatory Agencies. The President’s FY 2018 budget takes dead aim at regulatory agencies, EPA in particular. The plain purpose is to make it difficult for agencies to enforce existing rules and impossible to develop new ones to meet new challenges.

The Regulatory Czar

Since 1981, the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), home to the so-called Regulatory Czar, has played a lead role in watering down or quashing safeguards. Its chief leverage is that it rides herd over agencies’ cost-benefit analyses of their draft rules. Its economists lack expertise in the subject matter and generally have no statutory authority to override agencies’ judgment, yet they routinely redo the work of the agencies — conducting substantive meetings with regulated entities and rewriting agency’s rules. Read more about OIRA and new OIRA Administrator Neomi Rao.

CPR’s Work

As the Trump assault began, CPR Member Scholars and staff launched a new initiative to document and combat the coming Trump Assault on Our Safeguards.


The Center for Progressive Reform

2021 L St NW, #101-330
Washington, DC. 20036

© Center for Progressive Reform, 2019