Monday, April 17, 2017

L.A. Times: The Environmental Protection Agency is targeted for some of Trump’s most brutal cuts

Deregulation is one of Trump’s highest priorities. Among the President’s regulatory targets are Obama’s Clean Power Plan, mandated expansion of overtime pay, and FCC neutrality. Trump’s plan also includes Wall Street deregulation (particularly  Dodd-Frank), and regulations imposed by the Affordable Care Act.

But the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is a major target for deregulation.

“President Trump’s budget envisions a rapid retreat from the aggressive federal environmental protection policies developed over the last four decades, to be replaced with hollowed-out enforcement and wholesale elimination of some signature federal conservation efforts.”

“No president in recent decades has proposed cuts to environmental protection this deep, and even the Republicans who control Congress are chafing at the prospect of so severely gutting the EPA.

“Advocacy groups have put them on notice that embracing the plan is a path to political peril.

“ ‘Trump's budget proposal would effectively cripple the EPA’s ability to do anything on behalf of public health and environmental protection, and leave local and state governments on their own in fighting climate change, water contamination, air pollution from toxic industries,’ said Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group.

“This is not a philosophical debate about regulations or ‘deconstructing government,’ but about our health, our safety and the world we're going to leave to our children,’ he said.”

Here is what former labor secretary Robert Reich has to say.

Trump is seeking advice from big corporations about what regulations should be rolled back because they burden corporate profits.

As someone who ran the Department of Labor -- which ranks second to the EPA on Trump’s list of departments that businesses want to defang -- let me offer 7 points of common sense:

1. Corporations will not voluntarily protect workers if they can make more money by not protecting them (consider the latest mine disaster). Ditto for consumers (Wells Fargo, United Airlines, price gouging by Big Pharma). And investors (almost daily outrages perpetrated by Wall Street).

2. There are only 3 constraints on corporate greed: (1) competitive markets with full information – enabling consumers, workers, and investors to shift to more responsible firms; (2) the threat of lawsuits by individuals or groups harmed by corporate actions; and (3) regulations.

3. We’re losing (1) competitive markets because of lax antitrust enforcement over the past quarter century (if you don’t like Wells Fargo, there may be no other bank near you; if you don’t like United, there may be no other carrier to take you where you want to go);

4. And we’re losing (2) the threat of lawsuits because corporations have put mandatory arbitration clauses in their contracts -- with arbitrators chosen by the corporations.

5. Which leaves only (3) regulations. Take away regulations, and corporate greed is unconstrained.

6. Corporations don’t need more profits anyway. Corporate profits are now a higher percentage of America’s gross nations product than they’ve ever been (and wages a lower percentage than ever).

7. Even if they had more profits, corporations wouldn’t spend them on new investment or new jobs. They’ll spend them as they’ve been been spending their current profits -- on buying back their shares of stock, thereby boosting the price of each remaining share, and on mergers and acquisitions.

Bottom line: Trump’s deregulatory initiative is ludicrous.

(Charlie Riedel / Associated Press)
The Environmental Protection Agency is targeted for some of Trump’s most brutal cuts

By Evan Halper