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Any Excuse to Deregulate: Pandemic Edition

By Matt Kent

In 2007, author Naomi Klein coined the term “shock doctrine” to describe the process through which corporate interests use major crises to further their objectives and shore up their profits. The COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated once again how corporate-captured government authorities never fail to exploit a crisis to weaken key regulatory protections.

Examples of the coronavirus shock doctrine abound in the regulatory sphere, many are included in the Coalition for Sensible Safeguard’s Pandemic Rollbacks tracker. The deregulatory playbook so far has boiled down to two types of actions: (1) plowing forward with their existing deregulatory moves, in some cases accelerating the timeline, and (2) suspending a vast swath of protections barely related to the pandemic. In furtherance of the second play, President Donald Trump recently issued an executive order directing agencies to make rule suspensions permanent in the name of crisis response.

The tragedy of Trump’s pandemic rollbacks is that everyday Americans’ lives are at stake. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s supposedly pandemic-related weakening of trucker fatigue rules has had fatal consequences. The trucker fatigue rule change had been long sought by industry, and a final rule to make those changes permanent went forward on June 1. The timing is not coincidental.

Trump and his corporate allies have wasted no time in using this crisis to decimate public protections.