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Will Donald Trump allow wealthy elites to call the shots?

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Last week the Business Roundtable, a collection of millionaire CEOs who work to influence policy in their own self-interest, sent a letter urging the White House to dismantle important consumer protections that are inconvenient to their business ventures.

They attached a list of “Top Regulations of Concern,” the contents of which are no surprise  given the CEOs involved in this group. (It’s also no surprise that there’s a blatantly self-serving request to eliminate CEO pay-rate disclosures at the Securities and Exchange Commission.)

{mosads}So which protections do these fat-cat executives want to take away from the American people? Here are a few of their targets: a Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order requiring prospective federal contractors to disclose labor-law violations; a Fair Labor Standards Act regulation stipulating that employers pay salaried employees overtime if they make $47,476 or less per year; the EPA’s Clean Water Rules clarification that protects our nation’s water; an EPA Clean Power Plan rule that helps mitigate toxic pollution; and a Treasury Department regulation designed to close loopholes that businesses exploit to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.

The CEOs also want the president and Congress to curb the free speech of so-called “activist shareholders” by limiting shareholder proposals for corporate responsibility to only the most well-heeled shareholders (read: themselves).

And, of course — undoubtedly thanks to the participation of the CEOs of AT&T, Verizon and Comcast — Net Neutrality rules are also on this list. The Business Roundtable claims that:

The FCC’s Open Internet Order imposed on the nation’s broadband providers is based on outdated utility regulations that will slow investment and innovation. Business Roundtable supports both congressional and FCC action to protect net neutrality without the unworkable rules designed for the last century’s marketplace and technology.

These complaints are, to put it bluntly, nonsense. During the two years following the passage of the Open Internet Order, capital investments for large ISPs were nearly 9 percent higher than in the two years prior. Capital spending for Comcast’s cable segment in particular was up 27 percent in 2015–2016. As Free Press has thoroughly documented, the “slow[ing]” in investment these big internet providers are bemoaning doesn’t actually exist.

Furthermore, the companies themselves never expected the FCC’s rules to harm investment. A few months before the 2015 Net Neutrality rules were passed, Verizon CFO Francis Shammo reported to investors:

I mean to be real clear, I mean this does not influence the way we invest. I mean we’re going to continue to invest in our networks and our platforms, both in Wireless and Wireline FiOS and where we need to. So nothing will influence that.

Besides this fabricated investment crunch, the Business Roundtable’s only real critique of the FCC’s rules is the age of the legal framework they’re based on. This argument is irrelevant: Laws don’t “age out” of use when wealthy CEOs arbitrarily decide they’re inconvenient. Much corporate law predates the 1934 Communications Act, yet monopolistic ISPs still find that legal framework useful in the present day.

Net Neutrality is the basic principle that internet service providers must allow access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites. It’s paved the way for small business owners and diverse voices to flourish on the internet. And it was codified after more than 4 million Americans from both sides of the aisle called on the FCC to do so. Yet Trump and his FCC chair are poised to destroy these rules, to the great pleasure of big ISPs.

These are, after all, the same companies that have responded to internet-affordability concerns by demanding corporate welfare to subsidize networks they already plan on building — all while raising prices and stifling competition. They want Trump to kill real Net Neutrality so they can experiment with more ways to squeeze the companies and people that depend on them for access. That’s not innovation; it’s exploitation.

Trump often claims to speak for “regular people,” but he’s happy to let wealthy CEOs call all the shots — even when they attack protections like Net Neutrality that benefit his voters.

The corporate elites who comprise the Business Roundtable are using Trump as a political mouthpiece for their own agenda, and so far it’s working.

Dana Floberg is  the C. Edwin Baker Fellow at Free Press. Jessica J. González is Free Press’ Deputy Director and Senior Counsel.

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


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