It's Time for Trump to Kill the Regulatory Swamp Monsters
President Trump has successfully taken a chainsaw to some of the most onerous, economy-crushing regulations we have seen in modern times, which have disproportionally hurt consumers and small businesses. However, there are still very punitive Obama-era regulations that career bureaucrats at various federal agencies are using to undermine President Trump’s anti-regulation agenda and further squeeze consumers and small businesses.
Here are three egregious examples. Alas, they are just the tip of a monstrous iceberg.
One of the most notable occurred when the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently issued new rules governing short-term loans. It was the latest eruption of this regulatory agency volcano. The CFPB, created in response to the 2007-2008 financial crisis, was supposed to protect consumers from abusive banking practices. Instead, it has been the source and driver of the most aggressive, unchecked assault on American commerce in modern times.
In the six years the CFPB has operated, the agency has issued thousands of pages of rules and assessed billions of dollars in penalties. Sadly, these enforcement actions have done next to nothing to enhance “consumer protection.” For example, the CFPB fined Wells Fargo $100 million last year for opening over 3 million fake customer accounts. However, according to a recent Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) report, CEI exposed the inconvenient truth that CFPB did not uncover Wells Fargo’s egregious behavior. “The facts show that tension between the CFPB’s supervisory and enforcement arms led to a failure to catch Wells Fargo’s wrongdoing until after it was revealed in the media,” said CEI.
What’s equally disturbing is what the CFPB does with the fines they collect. According to the New York Post, “the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau continues to force financial institutions it prosecutes to donate to third-party community organizers. More, penalties in such cases are deposited into the Bureau’s now-$170 million-plus Civil Penalty Fund, which has, in turn, channeled almost $30 million to ‘consumer advocacy’ groups.” Many of these groups are aligned with the political left.
Last year, a federal appeals court ruled that the CFPB’s unaccountable governing structure was unconstitutional. The Trump Administration now needs to go a step further to eliminate this politically driven, rogue agency once and for all.
Another absurd regulation that is set to go into effect next year that will hurt small businesses is a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rule regarding menu labeling.
Tucked away in the abominable bill that created Obamacare was a four-page mandate that the Obama FDA turned into a rule-over one hundred pages in length-requiring restaurants with 20 or more locations to post in-store menu boards for "all" of their food items. In the real world, this fails to consider the needs of small businesses that offer numerous and flexible “build your own” menu options, such as the hot and cold buffet bar at your neighborhood grocery store or the millions of combinations offered by Domino’s and Pizza Hut franchisees. Additionally, many of these affected businesses take a majority of their orders over the phone or online and so in-store menu boards would be useless.
Not only did Obama’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) estimate this rule was the third-most-onerous regulation proposed in 2010, requiring more than 14.5 million hours of compliance, the FDA delayed implementation of their own rule twice in six years due to its complexities. The regulation, which was set to go into effect back in May, was delayed again, hours before the deadline.
FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb indicated that the agency was moving quickly to finalize additional “guidance” clarifying problems with the rule, but there is still widespread concern that guidance cannot achieve the flexibility that the impacted businesses need because this form of agency action does not have the full force of law.
Congress can easily fix this rule through the bipartisan Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act, which passed the House of Representatives last year. There is also a bipartisan companion bill in the Senate.
Finally, while the Trump Administration has been aggressively working to roll back harmful Obama-era job killing environmental regulations, there is still more work to do.
Published during the post-election “lame duck” period of the Obama administration, the Bureau of Land Management’s “Venting and Flaring Rule” was designed to curb emissions of methane from wells and pipelines on federal and tribal lands. The oil and gas industry is already financially incentivized to avoid unnecessary waste from venting and flaring and have decreased methane emissions 38% since 2005 even as natural gas production has increased.
Voluntary industry efforts to achieve further reductions are underway. The BLM rule comes with a staggering $1.8 billion dollar-price tag that ultimately will be borne by American consumers and would decrease greenhouse emissions by an estimated 0.0092%, a reduction so small that it can’t even be measured. Under the Trump administration, the BLM has attempted to suspend the job-killing rule, but has been blocked from doing so by a California judge. An executive or legislative remedy to this latest setback would serve as a stimulus to the American economy.
These examples are a reminder that regulatory monsters created by Obama still lurk in the swamp President Trump is working hard to drain.