We’re hardly a week into the Trump administration, and the media and liberals across the country have already latched onto nonsense fights about crowd size, rogue bureaucrats’ Twitter escapades, and marches on the capital. It’s all clearly an effort to delegitimize and derail President Trump’s first 100 days in office.
Trump needs to avoid punching down on the nipping media and focus on the prizefight: to be the American people’s champion in the struggle against the leviathan of government. It will be a massive, day-by-day fight to beat the bureaucratic state, close the Pandora’s box of presidential overreach, and empower states to make choices the federal government is ill-equipped to make. If he is successful in those fights, he’ll leave his critics in the dust.
President Trump’s first step should be to undo the Obama legacy. After Barack Obama lost the House and Senate, he declared he had “a pen and I’ve got a phone…and I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions and administrative actions.” Rather than work with the Republicans America sent to Congress, President Obama went it alone, and went far beyond his legal and constitutional limits.
Even the New York Times called his regulatory style “bureaucratic bulldozing, rather than legislative transparency.” Because President Obama chose to go it alone instead of compromise with Republicans and codify his legacy into law, the vast majority of the 20,642 new regulations he initiated can simply be undone.
Here’s Where to Start
The new administration can start with Environmental Protection Agency regulations like the so-called Clean Power Plan, which would cost consumers $214 billion by 2030 with almost no environmental benefit. The Supreme Court has already stalled this clearly unconstitutional interpretation of the Clean Air Act, but President Trump can end it now. The president has already ended America’s involvement in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and is reviewing other trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement to find better solutions for American workers.
But to truly see a boom in American manufacturing, President Trump should look to expand access to energy resources on federally managed lands. Although energy production is skyrocketing on state and private lands, lands that were under federal management saw a stark decline during the Obama administration.
The bureaucrats slow-walked permits for drilling, which for them took as long as 240 days to complete while state regulators took as little as 10 business days. Obama also closed access to energy resources both offshore and around the country.
Unlocking federal lands for responsible energy production would not only greatly increase employment opportunities and decrease the cost of energy, but would also create huge amounts of tax revenue. The Institute for Energy Research estimates that opening federal energy resources for production could create $3.9 trillion in tax revenue over the next 37 years. Instead of increasing taxes on the middle class or increasing our national debt, the Trump administration could grow the economy by growing the tax base to pay for much-needed infrastructure improvements and chip away at our nearly $20 trillion in debt.
Wrestle the Bureaucracy Down
But it shouldn’t stop there. By creating a national infrastructure fund, Trump can also address the welfare state. Society has an obligation to provide a backstop for those on hard times, but that backstop should never become a permanent residence. The Trump administration should take those in the welfare system and put them to work through the infrastructure fund, thereby shrinking the welfare state while providing a paycheck for those in need of a job.
Although undoing the mistakes of the last eight years should rank high in President Trump’s priorities, he should also enact a positive conservative agenda by slashing the excesses of the bureaucratic state put in motion by the first progressive movement in the early twentieth century. Trump should wrest that power from the bureaucratic state and work on returning power to the legislative branch. He should, as he alluded to in his inaugural address, begin delegating power to the states by devolving power out of Washington DC.
A friend in the Bush administration once told me of an interaction he had with a life-long government employee. In the face of new priorities and reforms, the bureaucrat shrugged and told him that he and his colleagues would simply outlast the administration and its reforms.
The bureaucracy is like a house with crumbling foundation and termites in the walls. We can’t keep painting the cracking walls with new colors while expecting different results. It’s time to gut the entire system. Otherwise, we’re just papering over the deeper problems. President Trump’s hiring freeze and five-year ban on lobbying for those leaving the executive branch are steps in the right direction, but it’s time to make bold choices in inventive new ways.
This is the chance to be bold. We have a moment. Conservatives were rightly disappointed after eight years of the Bush administration. We failed to get any meaningful reforms through, even when we controlled much of the government apparatus. Now is the time to truly go big league.
I believe Trump understands that whether he goes big or small, the Left and the mainstream media will hate him. The chattering classes are going to lob their criticisms no matter what Trump does, so why not swing for the fences?