President Donald Trump on Monday signed an executive order aimed at slashing federal regulations to help businesses, the latest in a string of presidential directives he has unveiled in his first ten days in office.The "one in, two out" plan requires federal agencies requesting new regulations to cut two existing regulations. Trump said the order will reduce the regulatory burdens on the private sector, particularly small businesses.
A couple of weeks before Election Day 2016, Donald Trump delivered a speech about all kinds of reforms he intended to pursue if elected. The ideas, however, were largely ignored -- because in the same speech, against the advice of his aides, the Republican vowed to file lawsuits going after the many women who accused him of sexual harassment and misconduct.The dumb threats overshadowed a series of very dumb ideas, including a new requirement that "for every new federal regulation, two existing regulations must be eliminated;"Apparently, Trump was serious about this.
"If you have a regulation you want, number one, we're not going to approve it because it's already been approved probably in 17 different forms," Trump said this morning. "But if we do, the only way you have a chance is we have to knock out two regulations for every new regulation. So if there's a new regulation, they have to knock out two."This is what governing looks like when adults are no longer in charge.Obviously, Trump and his Republican team are going to be hostile towards regulations, safeguards, and layers of accountability. These attitudes are deeply rooted in GOP orthodoxy and are common among those who see government protections as needless hindrances to the free market.But the grown-up way of reducing regulations is to identify existing safeguards that an administration considers unnecessary or out of date and then eliminate them. Trump's way of reducing regulations is an arbitrary little game he expects federal officials to play.Why should two unnamed and unidentified regulations be scrapped for every new regulation created? Because Donald Trump thinks that sounds cool. Why not one-to-one or three-to-one? Apparently because the president and his White House team concluded that "one in, two out" has a nice ring to it.There's no substance, no policymaking process, no detailed scrutiny, not even someone in his administration to oversee regulatory policy. Instead, Trump World starts with the answer that seems appealing and then works backwards to find a silly policy stunt to deliver the outcome the White House likes.In early December, Slate's Julia Turner explained that Trump "plans to replace governing with gimmickry." Her piece appears prescient now.The Muslim ban is a poorly thought out gimmick that Trump liked during the campaign and is now implementing in a reckless and potentially dangerous way. The hiring freeze is a gimmick. Ordering military leaders to make up an ISIS plan for him is a gimmick.These aren't ideas from a serious policymaker; they're bumper-sticker slogans and short-cuts pretending to be public policies. Governance in a 21st-century superpower has to be better than this.