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Est. April 5, 2002
February 16, 2017 - Issue 686

Trump’s "WAR on Regulation"
is a
War on the Nation
Its People


"For generations, polluting industries have been
placed in the poorest parts of cities, villages,
and towns, and that’s where the poorest people
live and, in many places, that’s where the black
and brown neighborhoods are."

No one ever said that Donald Trump was up to date on the state of the U.S. and its people, but his White House recently bragged that he is conducting a “war on regulation” and his handlers never said whether he understood the reason we have regulations in most areas of life.

Notwithstanding that he does not understand, nor does he care, all he wants to do is bow to his rich friends and allies, most of them Republicans, and do what they have been whining about for decades: too much regulation that hurts their businesses and causes them to spend too much money in complying.

The president wasted little time in offering up to his ruling class friends an order that, for every new regulation, the congress and governmental agencies would have to eliminate two existing regulations. In that, he beat Canada, which a few years ago, established a rule that for every new regulation, one regulation would have to be scrapped. How’s that for a hard-charging competitive new president?

Reality barges in occasionally and, this time, reality will begin to intrude on this “war on regulation,” as it has in other instances in Trump’s short presidency, such as his immigration debacle. That’s what happens when someone in power shoots and then looks for the target.

Yesterday, CNBC came up with a headline that said: “CEO confidence at near-record high. Why? Trump’s War on Regulation,” and it was a piece on that cable TV channel by Frank Holmes, CEO and chief investment officer at U.S. Global Investors. Holmes wrote, “Such a rule (the two-for-one rule) has been long overdue in U.S. regulations — or indirect taxation, as I call them — which often stand in the way of growth and create economic friction. The libertarian think tank Competitive Enterprise Institute calculates that the annual cost of regulations amounts to a jaw-dropping $1.9 trillion, a figure that in 2014 exceeded the $1.7 trillion collected in federal income taxes.”

Let’s start with one of the big regulations that is sure to cost employers money: the minimum wage. Trump, on the campaign trail last year, said clearly that Americans are paid too much, and that the minimum wage is too high. He was merely parroting numberless CEOs from Corporate America who have been complaining about having to pay a minimum wage, which has not been a living wage for generations, if ever. That is a regulation, in that it requires a minimum standard for wages and CEOs don’t like that.

The coal industry, one of the most destructive industries in the country, complained that their mountaintop removal to expose coal deposits destroyed hundreds of miles of streams and valleys, caught the eyes of the regulatory agencies, which developed regulations to stop the destruction, but only after the damage was done to home country for hundreds or thousands of families. That’s regulation.

The village of Hoosick Falls, N.Y., discovered (by one of the citizens) that their community was contaminated by perfluoroctanoic acid, from Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics. The chemical was found in the drinking water of the village and many believe that it caused cancer. The substance is widely dispersed in the environment, because it was used in the production of stick-free cookware, such as Teflon. It could be said that regulations and an efficient regulatory agency could have prevented that contamination, which was also found across the state line in Vermont.

Hoosick Falls residents’ problems with toxic water brings up the case of the poisoning of the people of Flint, Mich., where the people drank lead-contaminated water for more than a year before a whistleblower brought the case to public attention. The lead was especially toxic to children, whose bodies and minds are just developing. A good regulator would have stopped that in its tracks. But so far, there has been little to no action against city or state officials, who knew about the contamination all along.

Regulation of the confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), for pork, beef, and chicken production has been slow to take hold. Meanwhile, the high water table in some states where CAFOs exist, being only 10 feet below the surface, such as in North Carolina, are easily contaminated by the waste from such factories, in this case, hog production. The huge corporations who are the ultimate beneficiaries of not having any regulations do not want to be even minimally regulated. Regulations are developing in these places, but the fight is difficult for homeowners and small farmers who live in those areas. CAFOs are found in many states across the U.S. and the problems are the same.

For generations, polluting industries have been placed in the poorest parts of cities, villages, and towns, and that’s where the poorest people live and, in many places, that’s where the black and brown neighborhoods are. The practice of placing polluting industries there has become known as environmental racism and it is found in communities across the country, urban or rural. One instance that has brought much attention is the presence of “bomb trains” in New York’s capital city, Albany. The trains are carrying crude oil that has been laced with a more flammable liquid to make it flow more easily in transferring the liquid from the railroad tank cars to barges in the Port of Albany, from which the oil is taken to refineries in New Jersey and the metro area.

An exploding tanker of the same mixture of oil in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, killed 47 people in 2013 in the conflagration that resulted from the bomb train that derailed downtown. More than 30 buildings, about half of the downtown area, were destroyed outright, and most of the remaining buildings were demolished because of the oil contamination of the village center. Stricter regulation of the handling of the bomb train material, from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota, through the rail lines, through to the low-income neighborhoods of Albany, N.Y., just might prevent a disaster such as Lac-Megantic. Eliminating the trains is what opponents are proposing.

There are 80,000 chemicals currently in use in the U.S., according to the National Resources Defense Council, and most have not been tested for their effects on humans and the environment. The current “health care crisis” can be attributed largely to the glut of such substances in everyday life. People eat, drink, and breathe these chemicals every day, and that’s in addition to the background assaults of atmospheric drift of these substances, which eventually end up in our lungs, on the ground, and in lakes, streams, and rivers, from which we draw our drinking water. It’s all around and those most affected are the poor and marginalized.

Giants of the food industry do not want stricter regulation of their production and distribution of food, because that takes money and potentially reduces profits. Corporate America spends billions of dollars every year to tell the people that it is the safest food in the world. Even if it is “safe,” (which may mean that you are not sickened outright) they never address the quality of nutritional value in the food they sell. That would be another area of regulation and corporations do not want, either the cost or the monitoring.

Health care and the pharmaceutical corporations make up a huge area that largely escapes regulation, although any CEO of one of them would tell you that they are highly regulated. But, even if the drugs they peddle are effective, they are allowed to price them out of the reach of anyone without a health insurance program. That takes regulation and American politicians are not inclined to examine and do something about it.

Money and finance and banking are another pretty much unregulated area that saps the economic life of working men and women. They have not been reined in. What little “reining in” that was done by the Obama Administration will be undone by the Trump Administration and his Republicans in congress. The president does not want the money manipulators to have to suffer the loss of profits, nor does he want to suffer any loss to any of his many businesses, so those manipulators will be free to do their fleecing of the people, especially the poor. Even some Democrats in some places have sided with the payday lenders whose interest rates reached 400 percent or more. Again, it was mostly perpetrated on the working poor in the poorest communities. Regulations are needed.

Protecting public lands and green spaces requires very close regulation and the soldiers of Corporate America are lined up waiting for the existing (mild) regulations to be lifted so they might drill, log, graze, and mine any of the people’s land that is available. And, instead of increasing regulations on such land, Trump and the GOP are considering removing all regulation or turning it over to the states, so the plundering can begin.

At a time when the chasm between the 1 percent of the rich and the rest of working America is so great, Trump’s announced “war on regulation” means that he will act to take away the regulations that make life livable in the U.S. The regulations that exist are barely adequate to protect life in the nation and on Earth. The U.S. is faced with a president who denies climate change science and is backed up by an administration of like-minded staff, backed up by a generally climate-change denying GOP in congress.

It is a time of peril as far as the health of the environment is concerned and those in power are concerned about their profits and their growing income and wealth. Often in the past, the people have said, “This is a dangerous time,” but this may be the most dangerous time, because of all of the forces coming together at the same time. And, the president is willing to remove some of the safeguards to benefit himself and his rich friends, despite the protests of the people.

The short-lived victory of the Standing Rock Lakota in stopping the Dakota Access pipeline is evidence that the people are awakening and the women’s march on the day after the inauguration last month showed that it is possible for the people to unite. Solidarity among the people and all of their varied interests is what will bring to heel the president, most politicians at every level of government, and Corporate America. Nothing less will do and Trump’s “war on regulation” will have to be brought to a dead halt, before he and his retro army can gain any momentum. The “war on regulation” is nothing less than a war to increase profits and make that wealth gap even greater. Columnist, John Funiciello, is a long-time former newspaper reporter and labor organizer, who lives in the Mohawk Valley of New York State. In addition to labor work, he is organizing family farmers as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure from factory food producers and land developers. Contact Mr. Funiciello and BC.




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