“Step right up to Grunkle Donny’s Bargain Emporium! We give one unit of credit for every two credits sold! All regulations must go!
Oh, sorry folks, read the teleprompter wrong. I meant to say ‘Grunkle Donny’s Bargain System of Governance.’”
Welcome to the fourth installment of the ever-growing executive order series — though this one is outside my area of expertise, so we’re all sailing without sonar today. But my handy-dandy secondary sources and I are still here to help! Buckle in, friends, because this latest order takes us even further into Wonderland — and just like the Wonderland T stop, we fall asleep for five minutes and end up cranky that we landed here.
Can you just tell us what this thing says?
The majority of the provision can be summarized with one pullquote, taken from Section 1: “[I]t is important that for every one new regulation issued, at least two prior regulations be identified for elimination, and that the cost of planned regulations be prudently managed and controlled through a budgeting process.” Nope, not a joke. We’re literally applying the same technique we use to clean our closets to federal regulation of government agencies.
There is more to the executive order, of course, because it goes on for four more sections, but it’s mostly just fleshing out this central idea. Though I do enjoy the part where the order says that “the total incremental cost of all new regulations, including repealed regulations, to be finalized this year shall be no greater than zero.” I can only imagine this is because we’re spending every last cent on that thrice-cursed wall nobody wants. (The following year is slightly gentler, allowing the director of the Office of Management and Budget to issue a maximum total cost for each agency, though I suppose he could just set all of them at zero again.)
Of course, none of this goes into effect until the regulations freeze currently in place ends, which means the soonest we could be seeing any of this play out will be late March. Oh, also, the executive order specifically exempts the following government agencies, because of course it does:
(a) regulations issued with respect to a military, national security, or foreign affairs function of the United States;
(b) regulations related to agency organization, management, or personnel; or
(c) any other category of regulations exempted by the Director.
So just like everything else, if Grunkle Donny likes you, you’ll probably be fine.
Okay… why did he do this?
So that he can cut taxes, presumably, without creating a giant deficit. Also so that he could maintain the illusion of being tough on big government. Of course, as several news articles note, this whole thing is pretty toothless (their word, not mine) because it doesn’t cover independent agencies that were created by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. So it’s… a symbolic middle finger, I guess? It manages to be rude and stressful without actually doing much of anything useful, at any rate.
But would this theoretically actually work to lower our deficit?
I guess technically it wouldn’t raise it? But this provision specifically exempts a lot of expensive government programs, such as the military and Our Fuhrer’s asinine wall and anything, y’know, required by law to stay in place. So it’s sort of like sticking a carbon-emitting band-aid on a gaping economic flesh wound. (All right, I can own it; that metaphor got away from me.) At the end of the day, this regulation appears to be much like our President himself: Full of sound and fury, and terrible at saving money.
And that’s about it for today, I fervently hope, though I’m sure we’ll have more executive orders to unpack soon. If you’re looking to catch up on all the other executive orders, may I recommend checking out this excellent list maintained by Politico? Or, of course, you can check out the three in-depth summaries I wrote last week. Or catch up on the news. So many options to ruin any chance of a good mood.
But this stuff is important, and onward we steadily march. Keep on keeping on until we meet again!