Michael Meeropol: Start The Bandwagon Without Me

Nov 14, 2017

Forgive me if I do not join in the almost universal commendations for Senators Jeff Flake and Bob Corker because they have made speeches attacking Trump.   Once more, I am sorry to say, the media has seized upon the latest bright shiny object in the sorry saga of the Trump Presidency.  Focusing on these two men and the speeches they made attacking Trump obscures the fact that they have both been reliable votes for the tremendous damage that Trump and his appointees are doing to the United States.

The news media keeps harping on the fact that Trump and the Republican Congress have no accomplishments to their credit – and keep reminding us that they failed to pass a repeal of Obamacare.   Supposedly, the attempted repeal of Obamacare and the proposed tax cut recently introduced in the House is all that the Republicans in Congress would have to show to voters when they contest the 2018 mid-term elections.    But this is not true.

Using the Congressional Review Act of 1996, Congress (with simple majorities in the Senate) and Trump have succeeded in repealing 14 Obama-Era regulations. Here is a list of the regulations overturned.

  • A rule that required companies seeking significant federal contracts to disclose violations of labor standards
  • A rule that limited the way mines dump debris when clearing earth in order to prevent the destruction of area streams. This rule would have protected an estimated 6,000 miles of streams and 52,000 acres of forests over the next two decades.
  • A rule that barred states from withholding federal family-planning funds from Planned Parenthood affiliates and other health clinics that provide abortions.
  • A rule that would have required the Social Security Administration to turn over to the Department of Justice information on individuals with disabling mental illnesses — about 75,000 a year — to include in a registry of those not allowed to buy a gun.
  • A rule that required oil, gas and mining companies to disclose payments made to foreign governments in exchange for access to drilling or mining rights. The rule was part of an effort to prevent corruption in foreign countries. (The industry argued it would put American oil and gas companies at a competitive disadvantage.)
  • A rule that set federal limits on state-based drug testing of people seeking unemployment insurance benefits. The repeal clears the way for the expansion of drug testing of anyone applying for jobless benefits.
  • A rule that revised the way the federal government conducts land-use planning on 245 million acres controlled by the Bureau of Land Management. (This is another example of the desire to give more public lands to private development.)
  • A rule that tightened restrictions on efforts by state officials to allow hunting of certain animals, like wolves and grizzly bears,​ on some Alaskan federal wildlife refuges. Backers of the rule said it prohibited inhumane hunting methods used to reduce predator populations.​ State officials argued that the rule too broadly blocked the hunting of predators, making it harder for Alaska to raise its populations of moose and caribou, which are more coveted by hunters.
  • A rule that told school districts how to rate their schools. The proposed regulations pushed states to weight student achievement measures, like test scores and graduation rates, more heavily than other factors in labeling schools as underperforming.​
  • A rule that created regulations on collecting data on the quality of teacher preparation programs.
  • The Obama Administration had changed rules by which states may establish I.R.A.-based payroll-deduction programs for private-sector workers whose employers do not offer a retirement plan.Congress has disallowed it.
  • A rule that clarified that employers have a continuing obligation to maintain accurate records of serious workplace injuries and illnesses for up to five years.
  • A rule that required broadband providers to get permission from customers to collect and use their online information.

(This information is from Eric Lipton and Jasmine Lee, “Which Obama-Era Rules Are Being Reversed in the Trump Era”  The New York Times, May 18, 2017. )

You can also go to Wikipedia and type in Congressional Review Act, to get a list of all these horrible accomplishments of the Trump Administration.

I guarantee you, there is not one of these acts scrapping a regulation that will raise the wages of blue collar workers or create good manufacturing jobs.  They will, however, make it easier to coal companies to pollute waterways, for credit card companies to commit fraud on consumers, for brokers to work against the interest of their clients, and many more ways that removal of regulations can increase the profits of giant corporations to the detriment of the rest of us.

One of the most egregious actions was the recent vote to overturn a rule written by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau forbidding credit card companies and banks from forcing their customers who have been defrauded into arbitration.  According to the NY Times, “ …. credit card companies and banks have inserted arbitration clauses into the fine print of financial contracts to circumvent the courts and bar people from pooling their resources in class-action lawsuits…  The new rule ….would have restored the right of individuals to sue in court.”  Only two Republicans joined all the Democrats in an attempt to block this giveaway to banks.

(See Jessica Silver-Greenberg, “Consumer Bureau Loses Fight to Allow More Class-Action Suits,” The New York Times, Oct. 24, 2017. )

It is important to note that neither Jeff Flake nor Bob Corker (nor John McCain for that matter) voted against any of the Trump Administration’s rollback efforts.   The media is so focused on the attempt to repeal Obamacare and giant tax giveaways to the rich that these horrible reversals of consumer, worker and environmental protections have flown below the radar.   These are real successes of the Trump Administration and the so-called courageous ones Flake, Corker and McCain have been energetic enablers.

By the way, it isn’t just Congressional action that is rolling back Obama-era regulations.   The office of Management and Budget has recently detailed how it plans to jettison hundreds of existing or planned regulations, upending federal policies on labor, the environment and public health with the stroke of a pen.

If Jeff Flake and Bob Corker want to resist Trumpism, they should be voting against and speaking against these disgusting regulation reversals.   The media should be widely publicizing these horrible Trump Administration successes instead of making believe it has been a failure.   Such mythology might make Democratic politicians happy but it misleads the public as to the dangerous changes the Administration has already accomplished.

So the next time a media pundit claims that the Trump Administration will have accomplished nothing if they fail to pass the tax bill, remember all the regulations reversed and the REAL harm that has been done by these reversals.

Michael Meeropol is professor emeritus of Economics at Western New England University. He is the author (with Howard Sherman) of Principles of Macroeconomics: Activist vs. Austerity Policies.

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