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Trump and his allies outline the economic case for upending DC bureaucracy

Donald Trump’s widely expected 2024 campaign — which he could formally announce as early as this year — appears likely to focus on upending Washington's bureaucracy.

The former president and his allies would put thousands of government employees in their sights who are traditionally insulated from politics. On Tuesday, during a summit in Washington, Trump and his top political allies sketched out an economic component of their attacks on bureaucracy, targeting an old GOP villain: regulations.

“Regulations hurt a lot and the regulatory state is one of the reasons the economy has contracted,” Larry Kudlow, a former Fox host who worked as director of the National Economic Council in Trump’s White House, said during a panel conversation hosted by the Trump-aligned America First Policy Institute.

“We need to make it much easier to fire rogue bureaucrats who are deliberately undermining Democracy,” Trump added during his speech later in the day, when he strongly implied he would be a candidate in 2024. If those reforms are enacted, Trump vowed, "Washington will be an entirely different place."

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 26: Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during the America First Agenda Summit, at the Marriott Marquis hotel July 26, 2022 in Washington, DC. Former U.S. President Donald Trump returns to Washington today to deliver the keynote closing address at the summit. The America First Agenda Summit is put on by the American First Policy Institute, a conservative think-tank founded in 2021 by Brooke Rollins and Larry Kudlow, both former advisors to former President Trump.  (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Former president Donald Trump speaks during the America First Agenda Summit on July 26 in Washington, DC. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images) (Drew Angerer via Getty Images)

‘Strangling Enterprise’

While Republicans have assailed Washington bureaucracy and regulations for generations, the effort this time comes after twin stories from Axios that laid out how far Trump and his allies are preparing to go should voters return them to power.

The articles outlined a plan that — if enacted — would upend Washington by firing potentially thousands of government employees who are traditionally not replaced after each election cycle.

When taking office, presidents typically have around 4,000 so-called “political” appointments to make. If Trump’s plan came to fruition, that number could balloon to more than 50,000.

Critics say the idea would introduce massive uncertainty into basic government services every time a new president is elected. But Kudlow made the case Tuesday that dramatic actions in 2024 could help spur economic growth.

He claimed federal regulations now impose a total economic cost of about $2 trillion per year. “That's remarkable,” he said. ”It's like strangling enterprise.” He said that Biden had run the economy into the ground and "we're either in a recession or at the front end of the recession."

Larry Kudlow, former Director of the National Economic Council, listens on stage at the America First Policy Institute America First Agenda Summit in Washington, U.S., July 26, 2022. REUTERS/Sarah Silbiger
Larry Kudlow, former Director of the National Economic Council, listens from the side of the stage at the America First Policy Institute America First Agenda Summit in Washington on July 26. (REUTERS/Sarah Silbiger) (Sarah Silbiger / reuters)

Also on Tuesday’s panel was Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA). The Republican Whip picked up on Kudlow’s comments and listed agencies that he said were guilty of “regulatory state overreach” — from the Environmental Protection Agency to the Departments of Energy and the Interior.

The focus on supposed government bloat and regulation — which was also a 2016 and 2020 campaign talking point — comes even though the Trump administration added billions in government red tape during his time in office, as the American Action Forum reported. Historically, every president ends up adding to government rules while in office, with Democrats adding more than Republicans.

Trump's focus on 2024 and his likely campaign also come as the former president faces legal and other scrutiny from seemingly all directions. He is the focus of probes from federal prosecutors, the attorneys general of both DC and New York, a district attorney in Georgia, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the House Select Committee on the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, and more.

Trump worked his mention of government workers briefly into an otherwise wide-ranging speech Tuesday that was perhaps his most complete articulation of the likely 2024 message to come. He started the speech by focusing on themes of American carnage. At one point, he called the United States "a cesspool of crime” under Joe Biden.

He also mocked transgender athletes, attacked the Jan. 6 committee, and covered a wide range of topics during speech, which lasted about 90 minutes. His mention of being able to fire more government employees echoed similar remarks from over the weekend and appears likely to become a staple in the coming months.

"We have to do so much, we need to save our economy and stop the inflation," Trump added Tuesday.

This week's series of speeches during Trump’s first visit to Washington D.C. since leaving office came as part of a summit hosted by the Trump-focused think tank formed to promote the former president’s ideas while President Joe Biden is in the White House.

The group portrays itself as a sort of “administration in waiting” should Trump return to Washington permanently. Headed by Brooke Rollins, the former head of Trump’s Domestic Policy Council, it is populated by an array of former Trump officials from Kudlow to Kellyanne Conway.

“The bureaucrats and the elites and ideologues and the fanatics who run Washington have diminished a lot of what is best about our country,” Rollins said on Tuesday. “The calvary is coming.”

Ben Werschkul is a writer and producer for Yahoo Finance in Washington, DC.

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