Deregulation creates jobs and regulations kill them?  Tell that to Flint.

All Republican office holders – regardless of their district or constituents – seem to share this mantra: Regulations Kill Jobs.  This is an absolute article of faith for conservative think tanks, right-leaning media, Republican officials, and the incoming president.

Their beliefs run so deeply that they have gone so far as to criticize the spiritual leader of more than a billion Catholics, Pope Francis, as a “leftist politician” because he has acknowledged existing harms to the environment.

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In my home state of Michigan we know the fruits these beliefs bear: destruction for our home towns.  Gov. Rick Snyder came to office in Michigan promising to be a practical, pragmatic leader who would improve the business climate and create jobs.  But once he got into office he focused less on improving Michigan’s business environment, and more on undermining its actual environment.  He appointed unqualified individuals from his inner-circle to important regulatory posts, and fostered a “minimalist approach to regulatory and oversight responsibility….”  He bragged at his State of Michigan Addresses about how many of those ‘job killing’ regulations he had repealed.

Most tragically, he took over local communities, ran their utilities as he saw fit, and when they complained, his administration told them to get lost. He put his corporate interests ahead of the public interest—ignoring the health problems, white washing egregious disparities in air quality and housing safety, and turning a deaf ear to parents who expressed concerns for their families.

And then the world learned what was going on in Flint—and he stopped bragging about cutting regulations and turned the standard Republican line on its head.  He didn’t speak about how the federal government should let states run their own regulatory enforcement—he complained that federal environmental regulators needed to be more involved in state decisions. He spoke about how angry he was that the little people didn’t speak up—but never acknowledged that he cut the little peoples’ budget and eliminated their job security.  He deflected blame anywhere he could, including his inner circle, career bureaucrats, federal agencies, and his own emergency managers.  All while fellow Republican—Attorney General Schuette—was out suing the Environmental Protection Agency to allow more pollution—like mercury-emissions— throughout Michigan, and signing off on the disastrous move off the Detroit water system.

Sound familiar. A supposed outsider runs on his supposed business credentials. He appoints fellow outsiders to key posts where they have no experience.  He promises to rebuild the economy, but once he gets the office goes straight after the environmental protections that secure some of our greatest resources.  It should, because it’s not just in Michigan anymore—every person in American is now living that same story.  Remember that pro-mercury pollution lawsuit I mentioned—the one that Michigan state employees were working on while Flint’s water was poisoned.  Well there were other state attorney generals pushing the same right of companies to emit mercury pollution.  One of them was in Oklahoma, named Scott Pruitt, who has among other things, fought to protect fracking, as well as other practices, that causes small earthquakes because it’s “good for the economy.”  That’s the same Scott Pruitt who Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpLondon terror suspect’s children told authorities he complained about Trump: inquiry The Memo: Tide turns on Kavanaugh Trump to nominate retiring lawmaker as head of trade agency MORE nominated to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.

Americans—it is time to get up off the mat and fight.  We have already given Donald Trump all the room we can afford to give. The ultimate consequences of losing this battle are hard to imagine—but I know what the start will look like. 

It will look something like an economically struggling town facing a slump in real estate values and the movement of jobs out of the region.  It might involve mothers unable to bathe their children, and a family using hundreds of water bottles a month, and years without knowing whether anything will ever change.  It will definitely lead to questions about our children’s’ future, and blaming ourselves, and false promises made by someone whose children will never have to face the challenges ours have.  It will involve sympathy that doesn’t last beyond an election.  It will involve a conversion only at the very end—when the “blunt” or “honest” or “different” leader who said we have to stop the job killing regulators, blames those same regulators for not stopping him when he put the public health at risk.

Get ready America—because it can happen to any of us, and if we let it, it most definitely will.

Rep. John Conyers, Jr. represents Michigan’s 13th Congressional District which encompasses the Detroit metropolitan area.  In 2014, Congressman Conyers was elected to his 26th consecutive term, making him the first African-American to hold the distinction as Dean (most senior member) of Congress. 


The views expressed by this author are their own and are not the views of The Hill.