Progressive Democrats are in a tough spot. It is increasingly difficult to ignore that the economy is surging under President Trump. Both business and consumer confidence are above pre-recession levels. Just this week, the National Federation of Independent Businesses released its Small Business Optimism Index, which continued its “historically strong performance” extending “the streak of positive months dating back to last November, when it shot up immediately following the election.”
The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index increased in October “to its highest level in almost 17 years” dating back to December 2000. The latest labor market report was solid with the official unemployment rate at a 17-year low and a broader measure many economists consider the real unemployment rate, known as the U-6 rate, is at a 16-year low. For the first time in three years, gross domestic product has grown by at least 3 percent for two consecutive quarters. The reports from main street are also positive.
Earlier this month, the trucking industry provided a very positive sign of increasing economic growth when the transportation intelligence firm FTR reported that October orders for Class 8 trucks increased an impressive 167 percent over last year. It was the fifth straight month of increasing gains. These are the semis and big rigs that move goods across the country. When the economy is growing, we need more of them. FTR expects this “strong production environment to persist into 2018.”
Unable to credibly ignore this economic surge, the current tactic for progressive Democrats is to deny its cause. Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) recently stated that Trump deserves “absolutely” no credit for the growing economy because he has yet to pass “any legislation,” has not been “involved in public policy” and “doesn’t know really what’s going on on Wall Street.” While few people look to Representative Waters for economic guidance, CNN’s global economic analyst Rana Foroohar claimed, “We’ve fact checked the fact that Donald Trump does not deserve credit for anything good that has happened in the American economy in the last six months.”
This “Trump gets no credit” approach says a lot about how poorly progressive Democrats understand what drives economic growth. It isn’t more government; its less. In his first nine months, President Trump has taken a machete to the Obama era’s rules and regulations that have been choking American businesses like parasitic vines. In fact, a recent analysis by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a libertarian think tank, found that Trump is deregulating the economy at a pace no other president ever has.
According to CEI, Trump’s has reduced the Federal Register’s page count by an impressive 32 percent compared to President Obama at this time last year. This put him on course to beat President Reagan’s record of a “one-third reduction in Federal Register pages following Jimmy Carter’s then-record Federal Register.” But that reduction took Reagan years to accomplish. Trump has been in office nine months. “So, by this metric, Trump is moving much faster” already making him the “least-regulatory president since Reagan.” There is little doubt that he will exceed Reagan’s record becoming the least regulatory president period.
This should come as no surprise. Candidate Trump pledged to “cancel every needless job-killing regulation and put a moratorium on new regulations until our economy gets back on its feet.” He promised to institute a new requirement that “for every new federal regulation, two existing regulations must be eliminated.” In an economic speech in Detroit, Trump promised to “remove bureaucrats who only know how to kill jobs [and] replace them with experts who know how to create jobs.”
Once in office, he immediately ordered government agencies to appoint regulatory “task forces” to identify anti-business regulations that needed to be eliminated. He also signed a memo ordering a moratorium on all new regulations until a Trump appointed official could review them. Ten days into his presidency, Trump fulfilled another campaign promise by signing an executive order requiring that for every new regulation, two be eliminated.
Those orders paid off. By July, the Trump administration announced that it was pulling or suspending 860 regulations the Obama administration had proposed. Of those, it was completely withdrawing 469 and setting aside an additional 391 to be reevaluated. The administration referred to deregulation as removing “that slow cancer that can come from regulatory burdens that we put on our people.”
Between Inauguration Day and May, the Trump administration issued just 15 new major regulations, by far the most dramatic reduction in regulatory output in history. In July, the administration announced that Trump’s Cabinet secretaries had surpassed the two for one rule and actually eliminated 16 old regulations for every new one.
In a September speech to manufacturers, the president credibly stated, “We have taken unprecedented steps to remove job-killing regulations that sap the energy, creativity and dynamism from our country. We are cutting regulations at a pace that has never even been thought of before.”
If you wonder whether this regulatory slashing really mattered, ask someone who owns a business. Should the Republicans in Congress get a real tax reform bill to the president’s desk, what won’t matter is whether Democrats give them credit for the resulting growth. Because the American people will.