When he was running for president in 2016, Donald Trump promised he would be “cutting regulation at a tremendous clip. I would say 70 percent of regulations can go.” Did he do it?

My short piece in the current issue of Regulation compares two series of aggregate data on the total stock of federal regulations. They give very a similar picture (see the actual article for a revealing chart). My conclusion (in which the “restrictions” are those found in the Code of Federal Regulations by QuantGov):

These data help us evaluate Trump’s claim to be a deregulator. Both indicators show a rough plateauing of the upward trend, with a very small increase between the last year of Barack Obama’s administration (2016) and the last year of Trump’s (2020). Between these landmark years, the number of pages in the CFR increased 0.8 percent (to 186,645), as did the number of restrictions (to 1,083,001). According to both series, then, the net effect (new regulations, including deregulatory rules, minus abrogated or simplified ones) of the Trump administration has not been deregulation but, at best, a plateau in the upward historical trend. At best, 0 percent of federal regulation did “go,” to use Trump’s expression.