With the ceremonial flourish of oversized golden scissors slicing a giant piece of red tape, U.S. President Donald Trump symbolically cut through decades of regulations on Thursday.
“So, this is what we have now,” the former reality television program host said, gesturing toward a 190-centimeter-high pile of what was said to be 185,000 sheets of paper. “This is where we were in 1960,” he added, referencing a smaller stack representing an estimated 20,000 pages of federal regulations.
“When we’re finished, which won’t be in too long a period of time, we will be less than where we were in 1960, and we will have a great regulatory climate,” the president added at the event in the White House Roosevelt Room.
Trump decried that an “ever-growing maze of regulations, rules and restrictions has cost our country trillions and trillions of dollars, millions of jobs, countless American factories, and devastated many industries.”
The event took place just after the Federal Communications Commission, in a 3-2 vote, repealed a rule of the previous Obama administration calling for “net neutrality,” the principle that all internet providers treat all web traffic equally.
The deregulatory zeal has generated a backlash.
The state of California has filed seven lawsuits challenging part of the administration’s deregulatory efforts dealing with the environment, education and public health.
The administration’s “rule rollbacks risk the health and well-being of Americans and are, in many cases, illegal,” according to California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.
In his remarks Thursday, Trump touted his executive order, signed days after he took office in January, mandating that two federal regulations must be eliminated for every new regulation put on the books.
His administration, Trump said, has exceeded that mandate by “a lot.”
The president, who as a real estate developer long railed against government regulation, claimed that for every new rule adopted, his administration has killed 22 — far in excess of the 2-for-1 pledge.
For the first time in “decades, the government achieved regulatory savings,” Trump said, boasting that “we blew our target out of the water.”
The administration, over its first 11 months, according to the president, has “canceled or delayed more than 1,500 planned regulatory actions — more than any previous president by far.”
He called for his Cabinet secretaries, agency heads and federal workers to “cut even more regulations in 2018.”
“And that should just about do it,” he said. “I don’t know if we’ll have any left to cut.”
$570M in savings seen
The cost savings, according to administration officials, will total $570 million per year. But they say there are benefits that go beyond money.
“When the government is interfering less in people’s lives, they have greater opportunity to pursue their goals,” Neomi Rao, the administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Office of Management and Budget, told reporters following the president’s ribbon-cutting event.
Asked whether she could verify that this is, as Trump has declared, the largest deregulatory effort in American history, Rao hedged to echo such a sweeping statement, saying, “I don’t think there’s been anything like this since [Ronald] Reagan, at least.” Reagan was president from 1981 to 1989.
The president’s former strategist, Stephen Bannon, has said a primary goal of the Trump administration, through deregulation, is achieving “deconstruction of the administrative state.”