New Evidence Shows Just How Bad the Trump Administration is at Governing

June 13, 2018 | 10:11 am
Photo: Gage Skidmore
Josh Goldman
Former Contributor

President Trump likes to brag about how many regulations his administration is removing. The President’s “2 for 1” order requires federal agencies to revoke two regulations for every new rule they want to issue. This order is aimed at getting “rid of the redundancy and duplication that wastes your time and money.” Call me crazy, but I’d like to keep the regulations on the books that protect consumers, safeguard clean air and water, and keep our kids safe. Forcing agencies to dump two rules for every new one requires agencies to take a sledgehammer to any imperfect rule (and its friend) when a scalpel would suffice.

Regardless of what the Trump Administration boasts, a dive into the data shows just how ineffective the President has been at both enacting and removing regulations. The Executive Office of Management and Budget (OMB) reviews every rule that a federal agency wants to enact and has been counting how many rules have come through its doors. I took a look at the OMB database to find out how many rules – including repeals of existing rules and new rules – the Trump Administration has sent to OMB during its first 18 months compared to how many rules the Obama Administration sent to OMB during its first 18 months.

The results are striking.

The Trump Administration has sent about half the number of economically significant* rules and about a third of all rules sent to OMB for review compared to the Obama Administration over the same timeframe.



(1/20/09 – 06/01/10)


(1/20/17 – 06/01/18)

Economically significant* rules sent to OMB 173 90 (75 concluded + 15 pending) -48%
All rules sent to OMB 889 338 (273 concluded + 65 pending) -62%

*As defined in Executive Order 12866, a rulemaking action that will have an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more or will adversely affect in a material way the economy, a sector of the economy, productivity, competition, jobs, the environment, public health, or safety, or State, local or tribal governments or communities.


This evidence further supports claims that the White House and our federal agencies have been hollowed out by the Trump Administration, which has ostracized longstanding public servants, failed to fill key roles, and created a working environment no one wants to join. In 2017 alone, nearly 400 workers left the EPA, and the agency’s staffing has reached its lowest point in almost 30 years. If every EPA employee eligible to retire by 2021 does so, the EPA would have about less than 8,000 employees by the end of President Trump’s term – a cut of nearly half.

Overall, this weakening of the federal government’s ability to enact and update rules is having a negative effect on public health and our environment. EPA has fewer staff to push back against an attempt by EPA Administrator Pruitt to delay rules designed to prevent chemical disasters. The Department of Interior is accepting early retirements and has less staff to manage our public lands and push back against industry petitions for oil and gas drilling permits. And, the White House itself seems unable to present a coordinated approach to policy, both foreign and domestic.

But fear not! The good news is that UCS is helping mobilize people across the country to #StandUpForScience, and is helping organize events to promote the use of science in sound rulemaking. UCS is also working to stop the rollback of rules designed to protect public health and fighting the Trump Administration’s efforts to stymie the effectiveness of the federal government. You can join these efforts too! All it takes is signing up for some emails and devoting some time to help make a difference. See you there!