fatalities regulatory policyThe New York Times, in another rather questionable Front Page article, The Trump Effect: Business, Anticipating Less Regulation, Loosens Purse Strings, today discusses the rapture felt by American business resulting from  Trump’s anti-regulatory policies.

According to Times reporters Binyamin Appelbaum and Jim Tankersley, because of Trump’s “regulatory pullback,”

A wave of optimism has swept over American business leaders, and it is beginning to translate into the sort of investment in new plants, equipment and factory upgrades that bolsters economic growth, spurs job creation — and may finally raise wages significantly.

The authors duly point out, however, that

There is little historical evidence tying regulation levels to growth. Regulatory proponents say, in fact, that those rules can have positive economic effects in the long run, saving companies from violations that could cost them both financially and reputationally. Cost-benefit analyses generally do not look just at the impact of a regulation on a particular business’s bottom line in the coming months, but at the broader impact on consumers, the environment, public health and other factors that can show up over years or decades

But this administration is not one to let the facts get in the way of a policy popular with their wealthy supporters.

The odd thing is that, with a few exceptions, there hasn’t actually been all that much de-regulatory activity. Some new regulations were easy to rescind using the Congressional review Act. Enforcement of other newer regs was slowed or stopped with the regulations put up for review. But generally, it takes a long time for a regulation to be repealed, because a successful repeal must use the same evidence gathering, notice and comment and court challenges that a new rule must survive.

In addition, during the Obama administration, almost no new rule saw the light of day where the benefits (to society) did not exceed the costs — usually by a long shot. Of course, the fact that society benefits — workers, communities, etc — doesn’t necessarily mean that individual businesses benefit. When it comes to regulations, this administration is only interested in costs (to their friends), not benefits to the American people.

In addition, as those with memories longer than a few months know, discouraging regulation is not something that Donald Trump invented; its been central religious dogma of all Republican administrations and most business associations like the Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Manufacturers.

The Hexavalent Chrome standard, for example, was the only major OSHA standard issued during the entire 8 years of the George W. Bush administration, and it was only issued because OSHA was under court order to issue it.

Nevertheless, despite the fact that “Only a handful of the federal government’s reams of rules have actually been killed or slated for elimination since Mr. Trump took office,” the authors note, “Mr. Trump’s more hands-off approach has unleashed the ‘animal spirits’ of companies that had hoarded cash after the recession of 2008. ”

Unmentioned in this article, although most likely not unappreciated by the business community, is not just fewer new regulations, but the failure of this administration to enforce the laws and regulations on the books.

Going unmentioned in this article, although most likely not unappreciated by the business community or its “animal spirits” is the failure of this administration to enforce the laws and regulations that remain on the books.

Weaker enforcement happens slowly and quietly. It doesn’t always get the headlines that major deregulatory actions get, but budget cuts, changes in enforcement policies — fewer “cops on the beat” with fewer tools to work with — probably does more to build “business confidence” than a slowdown in new regulations. That this administration is “law and order for thee, but not for me” is an important fact that should be discussed in any article covering Trump’s regulatory policies.

There is also another phenomenon missed in this article — one that has much longer-lasting implications than whatever individual regulation is or is not issued: the Trump administration’s disinvestment in future regulatory protections by driving away seasoned career professionals, dissolving EPA science panels, keeping independent scientists from participating on scientific panels, canceling of National Academy of Sciences studies on environmental issues and failing to staff the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

What The Times Failed To Cover: Your “regulation” is my “protection.”

Two things the Times failed to cover: How the administration’s regulatory rollbacks affect the people they’re designed to protect, and the not-unrelated fact that while “deconstructing the administrative state” may be a winner for Trump’s business friends, the Administration recognizes that their anti-regulatory actions are actually not very popular with the American people.

There are two sides to the regulatory coin.  Your “regulation” is my “protection.”

As we’ve said many times before, there are two sides to the regulatory coin.  Your “regulation” is my “protection.”  A benefit gained by a business may be the death of a family’s breadwinner.  Weaker coal power plant or mining regulations may translate into higher profits for a few energy companies, but will also result more costly and painful disease suffered by those mining the coal, living in the vicinity of a mine, anyone inhaling the particulates created by burning the coal, and, of course, those impacted by the catastrophic effects of climate change.

I’m waiting for a New York Times piece that describes the victims of de-regulation. The families who have lost loved ones in the workplace, the citizens of Flint who still don’t have clean water to drink, the people who have lost their life savings due to the self-serving manipulation of the American financial industry, the thousands of people who will live shorter lives because of air pollution, the residents of communities who live near chemical facilities and the first responders who don’t have the information they need to protect themselves and their communities.

What The Times Failed To Cover: Deregulation is Popular for Business, But Not For The American People

But Trump’s anti-regulatory initiatives — although clearly popular with his business allies — may not be very popular with real people.  How do we know this? Look at the calendar. There’s a well-worn communications rule in Washington: If you want to make news, don’t announce it on a Friday, and if you want to hide an unpopular action, announce it on a Friday — and you get extra points if you can find a Friday before a major holiday.

The Trump Administration recognizes that its anti-regulatory actions are actually not very popular with the American people.

So what has the Trump administration tried to hide from the American people during this festive holiday season when all attention is on the temperature outside, football and how we’re going to read all the books we got for Christmas and Hanukkah and Kwanza?

Luckily, the Washington Post has done us a favor by looking at major stories we may have missed during the Christmas vacation — stories the Administration wanted us to miss. They include weakening regulations of fracking, weakening the rules that were designed to prevent another Deepwater Horizon spill that killed 11 workers and unleashed the biggest environmental disaster in American history, rolling back an Obama-era policy aimed at protecting migratory birds by announcing that oil, gas, wind and solar operators who accidentally kill birds will no longer be prosecuted (the Friday before Christmas) and scaling back the use of fines against nursing homes that harm residents or place them in grave risk of injury. They also moved to renew expired leases for a copper and nickel mining operation on the border of the Boundary Waters Area Wilderness in Northern Minnesota.

The Boundary Waters decision was apparently so uh, “popular” that the Administration not only issued it the Friday before Christmas, but they didn’t even issue a press release and also didn’t give a heads up to Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (D), who opposes the mines. And they assure us that it had nothing to do (nothing!) with the fact that one of the major beneficiaries of this action, Andrónico Luksic, is also Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner’s landlord.

Wrapping Up

This is the second New York Times story in a week that seems to miss half the story — in both cases the stories of workers, consumers, communities, children, and anyone who breathes the air, drinks the water or lives on earth without the resources to hide from workplace, environmental and financial disaster.

In its lead editorial today, the new publisher of the New York Times, A. G. Sulzberger, states that “The Times will continue to search for the most important stories of our era with curiosity, courage and empathy — because we believe that improving the world starts with understanding it.”

That’s a worthy goal — but the Times needs a bit more curiosity, courage and empathy for the victims of the Trump administration.

2 thoughts on “NY Times Story on Regulatory Policy Again Forgets Workers, Communities”
  1. I know I don’t comment on your articles often and when I do it’s usually some snarky remark about a typo. But I really appreciate your work. I learn a lot from it and the writing itself is first rate. Thank you so very much for doing it.

    1. Thanks Jay. And informing me about typos is always welcome as well. I seem to be lacking a copy editing staff.

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