Time’s new cover perfectly captures the general media attitude toward the federal government.
Donald Trump is a wrecking ball, and his crew is “dismantling government as we know it.”
But is government as we know it such a good thing?
The well-reported story says: "Quietly, the Administration has taken thousands of actions, affecting everyone from the poorest day laborer to the richest investment banker."
But it’s not so quiet, as the piece acknowledges. Trump touts his slashing of regulations all the time. And Communications Director Hope Hicks is quoted as saying: "No president or administration has deregulated or withdrawn as many anticipated regulatory actions as this one in this short amount of time."
The default setting for many in the media is that Republican presidents—especially this Republican president--want to whack government’s vital functions and Democratic presidents want to reinforce them.
The pendulum swings back and forth. Republican administrations often hire industry executives who have chafed under the very regulations they are now in charge of administering. Democratic administrations tend to hire advocates and activists who have spent their careers criticizing business pushing for more regulations.
In the media world this side of the Wall Street Journal editorial page, more regulation is often progress, and less regulation is going backward.
If Barack Obama comes in and reverses the Bush policies and beefs up enforcement, that’s seen as a good thing. If Trump comes in and reverses the Obama policies and scales back enforcement, that’s seen as a troubling thing.
Now we can all agree that government has a core responsibility to ensure clean air and water, safe food and air travel, and solvent banks. I’ve done lots of stories on how regulatory failures have led to housing scandals, environmental disasters and banking failures.
The devil is in the details.
But there’s another side of the argument: that an excessively heavy hand of government can cost jobs by driving up the cost of compliance and paperwork.
So Donald Trump’s wrecking ball might do some damage, but could also hit some things worth knocking down.