The Trump administration and the Republicans in Congress have declared war on regulations. This puts large corporations and their profits first (not America) and puts America’s workers and consumers in danger.
Regulations and rules are what the Executive Branch of government (i.e., the President and his administration) uses to implement laws passed by the Legislative Branch (i.e., Congress). Rules and regulations are also used to update the implementation of laws over time as things change. For example, new products are brought to market, new medical procedures are developed, new chemicals are formulated, new financial instruments and transactions are invented, and so forth. If rules and regulations can’t be updated to respond to these situations, the implementation of our laws would fairly quickly become outdated and inappropriate. New laws would have to be passed to deal with every significant change in the real world. This would clearly be an inefficient and ineffective way to deal with our changing world, especially given the current dysfunction in Congress.
Rules and regulations protect public health and public goods (e.g., our air and water, our environment). They also protect workers and consumers from unsafe situations and products.
The Trump administration and the Republicans in Congress want to block new regulations and repeal existing ones for two, inter-related ideological reasons:
- Belief in an unfettered free market that allows corporations to make profits without any constraints, and
- Belief in a very limited role for government.
I believe there is another, non-ideological reason: our elected officials want to reward and do the bidding of their large campaign donors, both individuals and corporations. (Note that their donations are often given via intermediaries that are used to disguise the actual donors and their interests.) These large campaign donations buy essentially unfettered access to our elected officials so large donors can lobby and communicate their perspective on every rule or regulation. This, along with paid lobbyists, skews rules and regulations to favor the interests of these large donors. For example, the oil and gas industry spends $300 million per year on lobbying and has over 1,600 lobbyists working to communicate and convince officials in the legislative and executive branches to follow the industry’s preferences on rules and regulations.
The current war on regulations is being fought on multiple fronts and with multiple tactics:
- Repealing the 150 or so regulations implemented by the Obama administration in its last 6 months in office. Currently, there are over 50 resolutions in the House or Senate targeting over 30 regulations for repeal.
- Passing legislation that would give Congress the power to review and veto new regulations. This would substitute the political judgement of Congress for the judgement of scientists and experts in federal agencies in developing rules and regulations.
- Passing legislation requiring new regulations to be evaluated with a focus on costs, reducing or ignoring the importance and value of their benefits.
- Requiring that 2 regulations must be eliminated for every new one issued. This is being applied only in areas where the Trump administration opposes regulation but not for new regulations they favor, such as ones restricting the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
- Appointing executive branch personnel who do not support the mission of the agencies they head or are in. As a result, the agencies’ regulations won’t be effectively enforced. This clearly applies to Secretary Pruitt at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as well as to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) (which regulates banks and financial institutions) and the Department of Health and Human Services (which oversees the implementation of the Affordable Care Act).
- Underfunding agencies so they do not have the capacity to enforce the regulations they oversee. Again, this applies to the EPA and the SEC, among others.
- Reducing opportunities for public input into the repeal of existing regulations and the development of new ones.
In my next post, I’ll share some specific examples of rules and regulations that are being repealed, delayed, or weakened.