Reportedly, Trump will propose reducing the agency’s budget from $8.1 billion to $6.1 billion and the department’s workforce from 15,000 to 12,000 employees. Cue left-wing hysteria.
Before everyone freaks out too much, let’s put those numbers in perspective. The last time the EPA had a budget of less than $6 billion was in 1990, and the last time the EPA had fewer than 12,000 employees was in 1984. Those dates may seem like a long time ago, but no one would claim that the ‘80s and early ‘90s were some sort of apocalyptic wasteland of ash heaps and acid rain. If the EPA can’t do its job with 12,000 people, then there are some serious efficiency problems within the agency.
Besides, the EPA already falls in the top 25 most expensive federal agencies (out of more than 100), and these cuts would move it down only two slots from 22nd most expensive to 24th, between the Corps of Engineers and the National Science Foundation.
Now that I’ve hopefully allayed any fears that a one-quarter cut in the EPA’s budget will somehow turn the U.S. into something more closely resembling Mordor, let’s discuss some of the problems with the agency in general, and why Trump shouldn’t be satisfied with mere incremental cuts.
It should first be noted that the EPA has a history of ignoring the law and getting shot down by courts for exceeding its authority. Incidentally, it’s not clear where that authority originally comes from, since the EPA is an executive branch agency not authorized, as far as I can tell, by the U.S. Constitution. Congress is vested with the power to make laws, not the EPA. Nevertheless, this has not prevented the agency from issuing broad regulations that, if not technically laws, serve the same function, often offering criminal penalties for violators.
The EPA is one of the most destructive agencies that stifles economic activity, invades property rights, and crushes innovation through overregulation.
The economic impact of EPA rules is not only significant, but also stifling. It has been estimated that the EPA costs the U.S. economy more than $350 billion every year. For a president who values economic growth and wants to make America great again, loosening those restrictions and unleashing the creative forces of the economy should be a natural move.
One rule in particular, known as the Waters of the United States, would not only cost Americans hundreds of millions of dollars annually, but would also greatly compromise the basic property rights of farmers, small businessmen, and homeowners everywhere. The rule has been on hold since 2015 due to a legal dispute, but thankfully Trump is asking the EPA to withdraw the rule entirely.
The EPA is one of the most destructive agencies that stifles economic activity, invades property rights, and crushes innovation through overregulation. The fact that Trump is willing to reduce the department’s power through budget cuts and overturning rules is an encouraging sign that he is serious about deregulating the economy. I only wish he would go further and scrap the department entirely.
Logan Albright is a researcher for Conservative Review and Director of Research for Free the People. You can follow him on Twitter @loganalbright73.