When President Trump signed an executive order on regulations in late February, he declared a simple test that regulations must pass in his administration: “Does it make life better or safer for American workers and consumers?”
Yet, he made the announcement surrounded by CEOs from some of the biggest and most elite corporations in the country, without a single blue-collar worker or consumer in sight. These optics combined with other statements from Trump, such as his goal of eliminating 75 percent of all regulations by the end of his administration, raise questions about his sincerity and intentions. Indeed, a sober look at Trump’s early actions on regulations show that he has already failed this test badly and, if he follows his own policy, is destined to do so over and over again.
The first 100 days of Trump’s presidency are chock full of examples of his administration sacrificing protections for workers and consumers in order to give handouts to corporate special interests. For example, one of Trump’s first big executive actions was to delay the fiduciary rule from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). This common sense rule requires that when investment advisers give advice, they must do so in the best interests of their clients, not in their own best interests or to gain fees investors.
To many, it is shocking that the law doesn’t already require investment advisers to act in their clients’ best interests by prohibiting advice that just lines the pockets of investment advisers. What’s even more shocking is government data shows that putting the fiduciary rule in place would save consumers $17 billion a year that currently is going into the pockets of investment advisers as they funnel trusting consumers into higher fee offerings. If Trump wants to show that he’s on consumers’ side, and not on the side of big banks that want to fleece their customers, allowing the fiduciary rule to go forward would be a good start.
Another critical rule that’s been put on hold by the administration is the workplace safety rule to prevent exposure to the toxic carcinogen beryllium. According to the DOL, 62,000 workers across the country are exposed to beryllium each day in the workplace. Exposure can lead to lung cancer and chronic beryllium disease, an incurable, devastating disease that slowly cripples the lungs.
Workers strongly support the rule but corporate special interests have fought it and prevented the DOL from updating the beryllium standard for more than 40 years, despite Public Citizen petitioning the agency to force a stronger and safer standard for workers since 2001. In addition to the lives saved, the rule would save our economy more than $500 million every year according to DOL. The longer Trump delays this rule, the more workers and our economy will suffer.
While Trump has styled himself as independent of the GOP establishment, it is clear that he has been following the establishment lead in attacking regulations that benefit hardworking Americans and consumers. Republicans in Congress have been using a little known law, the Congressional Review Act, to repeal regulations that were finalized near the end of the Obama administration. This has turned into a feeding frenzy for big business special interests and a disaster for workers and consumers. Trump has dutifully signed all of these laws, again demonstrating that he fails his own test on regulation.
For example, Congress voted to pass legislation, which Trump signed, blocking a requirement that federal contractors disclose differences in pay based on gender as well as a rule that employers must keep records of incidents that led to worker injuries or deaths. Contractors that receive taxpayer money must keep workers safe on the job and pay their workers fairly no matter the gender. These are commonsense rules that protect workers and consumers. Trump should never have taken the side of federal contractors in signing the bill.
Republicans in Congress have continued to send Trump legislation to repeal protections for consumers and workers. Republicans voted to repeal a rule that would prevent Internet Service Providers, such as Comcast and AT&T, from accessing and selling customers’ data and internet browsing history without permission. Getting rid of these consumer privacy protections will allow the big telecoms to get richer by exploiting the sensitive personal information of their customers. Trump signed this repeal, a clear indication that he puts big telecom profits before the privacy of consumers.
If Trump is sincere about supporting regulations that benefit consumers and workers, he should spend less time with the millionaire and billionaire CEOs of huge corporations and more time with hardworking Americans who know just how important regulations can be in saving the lives of their loved ones.
These are folks like Joyce Davis, who founded Keeping Babies Safe after tragically losing her son to an unsafe portable crib accessory that was advertised as safe. There’s Andrew Hartung, whose 14-month-old daughter was trapped and injured by a dangerous crib that Andrew then worked to get recalled. And there’s Calvin Bryant who was crippled from a massive explosion at a Georgia sugar refinery plant in 2008 that killed 14 of his coworkers, an explosion that the Chemical Safety Board determined was entirely preventable.
There stories are the rule, not the exception, and proof that regulations not only improve the lives of American workers and consumers, they save lives. If Trump ignores these stories and only listens to big business CEOs and Republican establishment players, he not only will fail his own test on regulation, he will make life worse and more dangerous for hardworking Americans and consumers.
The views expressed contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.