The hubris the current group of Republican conservatives who hold sway in Congress these days is nauseating. Given their behavior since Barack Obama was elected president however, this is not shocking. Anyone with a 401 (k) plan is now painfully aware that the GOP’s refusal for any bipartisan compromise in the debt deal is forcing the country to pay a steep price for the party’s lock-step adherence to its ideology.
There was a time not that long ago when they at least made an attempt to camouflage their contempt for our vital system of regulatory safeguards, but those days are long gone. Coming in September when Congress returns from its summer break, Republicans will brazenly target federal regulations as part of its “jobs plan.” Ultimately, this all-out attack will only expose the fact that they actually have no jobs plan at all.
The GOP attempted to launch a jobs plan in May, but it was laughed off the table. Their flimsy 10-page document, filled with more pictures and drawings than words, contained the same old failed “trickle down” economic tools that have proven worthless since Ronald Reagan raised taxes four times from 1982-84.
So now, they are boldly turning to the “scourge” that is federal regulations as a means to revive our stalled economy – as if clean air and safe children’s toys are at the heart of the nation’s economic troubles. They are attempting to “fix” a problem that does not exist.
This attack on safeguards is not about jobs, it is about corporate profits. Ours is supposed to be a government of, by and for the people. But for our democracy to work, we need effective standards and regulations for accountability and transparency. Special interests shouldn’t be able to meet with public officials in secret, or have their lackeys in Congress bury amendments into appropriations bills that gut vital safeguards.
What is really needed is more regulatory oversight, not less. Do you think the BP oil spill disaster, the Massey mine explosion or the Wall Street meltdown of 2008 that sent 8 million Americans to the unemployment line occurred because of too many regulations?
The foes of public safeguards love to talk about how rules cost businesses too much and that they are an impediment to job growth. Both allegations are simply untrue.
Several studies have shown that claims about the burden of federal regulations are completely overblown. The non-partisan Economic Policy Institute released a study this spring that compared the benefits of regulations to their costs, investigated whether regulations negatively impacted the economy and assessed the studies that the federal government uses when drawing up specific rules.
It had several illuminating findings, including:
• Public protections “do not tend to significantly impede job creation.”
• Over decades, the benefits of federal regulations have significantly exceeded their costs. The latest Office of Management and Budget (OMB) report for example, shows that between 2001 and 2010, the benefits of major regulations reviewed substantially exceeded their costs. It put the total annual benefits “between $132 billion and $655 billion, while the estimated annual costs are in the aggregate between $44 billion and $62 billion.” That estimate puts benefits at 2 to 15 times more than the cost!
• Regulations “can lead to investments that create jobs, improve worker health and thus productivity, and spur important technological innovations, among other positive effects on the economy and employment.”
EPI also noted “evidence shows that an emphasis on deregulation can contribute to enormous economic dislocation, and regulations have generally and consistently struck a reasonable balance with their benefits to health, safety and well-being far exceeding their costs.” Sadly, the GOP’s coming attack next month when Congress returns from recess will have no reasonable balance.
It will be an ugly fight about ideology and a small minority’s rejection of the idea that government should play a role in keeping our air and water clean, our food safe from disease, our kid’s toys free of lead, our workplaces safe and financial system that is secure. Their push to vault corporate interests over the public good must be stopped.