Trump’s Regulatory Accountability Act Is a License to Kill

Sam Berger Senior Policy Advisor, Center for American Progress

Don’t let the innocuous name fool you: The Regulatory Accountability Act recently introduced in the Senate is nothing less than President Donald Trump’s License to Kill Bill. Described as the means of realizing Steve Bannon’s dream to deconstruct the government, this bill is part of Trump’s two-step strategy to first strip people of important health, safety, and consumer protections and then prevent agencies from ever protecting people from these harms again. By hamstringing the dedicated public servants charged with ensuring everything from safe infant formula to clean drinking water to a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work, this bill would put corporate profits before people’s lives and livelihoods.

More than 100 days into the administration, the nation has a good understanding of what “regulatory accountability” means to Trump. The president and Congress have already used the obscure Congressional Review Act to repeal 13 regulations, including protections against toxic pollutants in drinking water, exploitative and illegal labor practices by federal contractors, and the sale of your browser history by internet service providers without your consent. The end result: more than $700 million in annual giveaways to corporations, at the cost of millions of dollars in reduced wages, a net loss of jobs, and the elimination of a wide range of important consumer protections.

And Trump has been clear that these repeals are just the beginning. He’s begun efforts to undermine a rule that keeps financial advisors from cheating clients, which would cost people $17 billion a year in retirement savings. He’s also holding up new overtime protections for millions of Americans, which could reduce wages by $12 billion over the next 10 years. And his head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reversed the agency’s earlier decision to ban a common agricultural pesticide that the agency’s scientists, after an extensive risk assessment, had concluded can damage the neurological development of children. Moreover, because of its wide-ranging scope, the bill would even hamstring the ability of financial regulators, including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to put in place regulations that rein in Wall Street and prevent financial crises. Given that the last major financial crisis stuck the United States with a price tag of 8.7 million lost jobs, 10 percent unemployment, and $19 trillion in lost wealth, these are regulations the nation needs to have in place.

Trump’s License to Kill Bill would not only make permanent devastating repeals of critical protections for the middle class, but also eliminate protections from future harms. This bill upends the current regulatory process in order to make costs to industry more important than benefits to the public; make it harder for agencies to respond to new threats to health and safety; and make it easier for large corporations to hold up necessary protections in court.

The bill would turbocharge the industry playbook for opposing needed protections, which focuses on delaying implementation and arguing for more cost-effective alternatives. Automobile manufacturers, for example, used these arguments to delay mandatory airbags for 20 years, suggesting less expensive automatic seatbelts were an adequate substitute. In the interim, these delay tactics likely resulted in 90,000 preventable deaths. Industry recognizes the benefits this bill would reap; a Center for American Progress study found that more than 70 corporations and industry trade associations lobbied Congress during the first quarter of 2017, spending millions to pass it.

The Regulatory Accountability Act would bog agencies down in so much red tape and litigation that they could never respond to emerging threats to consumer welfare, public health, or safety. Agencies would be forced to engage in endless analysis of the potential effects of their proposal and a number of alternate ones, hold time-consuming, trial-like proceedings to resolve any technical or scientific issue raised by industry, and be tied up in court as judges second-guess every decision that would now be subject to judicial review.

Meanwhile, the next unsafe carcinogen found in worksites would go unregulated, as workers pay the price. The next financial scam would continue unabated, as consumers lose their hard-earned money. The next unsafe product would find its way into millions of homes, and families would be put at risk. The next threat to the economy’s financial stability would go unchecked, and all of us could suffer as a result. All so that corporations could pad their profits by playing by a different set of rules than everyone else.

This bill would provide big business with a license to pollute, to cheat, and, yes, to kill. And those charged with protecting us would be powerless to stop it, stripped of their authority as part of Trump’s plan to enrich his friends and impoverish everyone else. The Trump administration will do significant damage to hardworking families over the next four years. And if Trump’s License to Kill Bill passes, we may never be able to undo the harm.

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Reposted from CAP.

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

The Big Drip

From the USW

From tumbledown bridges to decrepit roads and failing water systems, crumbling infrastructure undermines America’s safety and prosperity. In coming weeks, Union Matters will delve into this neglect and the urgent need for a rebuilding campaign that creates jobs, fuels economic growth and revitalizes communities. 

A rash of water main breaks in West Berkeley, Calif., and neighboring cities last month flooded streets and left at least 300 residents without water. Routine pressure adjustments in response to water demand likely caused more than a dozen pipes, some made of clay and more than 100 years old, to rupture.

West Berkeley’s brittle mains are not unique. Decades of neglect left aging pipes susceptible to breaks in communities across the U.S., wasting two trillion gallons of treated water each year as these systems near collapse.

Comprehensive upgrades to the nation’s crumbling water systems would stanch the flow and ensure all Americans have reliable access to clean water.

Nationwide, water main breaks increased 27 percent between 2012 and 2018, according to a Utah State University study.  

These breaks not only lead to service disruptions  but also flood out roads, topple trees and cause illness when drinking water becomes contaminated with bacteria.

The American Water Works Association estimated it will cost at least $1 trillion over the next 25 years to upgrade and expand water infrastructure.

Some local water utilities raised their rates to pay for system improvements, but that just hurts poor consumers who can’t pay the higher bills.

And while Congress allocates money for loans that utilities can use to fix portions of their deteriorating systems, that’s merely a drop in the bucket—a fraction of what agencies need for lasting improvements.

America can no longer afford a piecemeal approach to a systemic nationwide crisis. A major, sustained federal commitment to fixing aging pipes and treatment plants would create millions of construction-related jobs while ensuring all Americans have safe, affordable drinking water.

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work