While people across the country are closely following the pending GOP tax reform scheme, the sexual harassment and assault allegations and whatever the president is tweeting, they aren’t following the dismantling of the so-called administrative state. It’s the one place where Republicans of all stripes are in agreement and where they applaud the Trump administration. The executive branch is rapidly repealing or ending all kinds of regulations that protect workers and the environment while providing oversight to prevent abuses like the ones that led to the financial meltdown in 2008.
All of the regulations were put in place for a reason. While some may be outdated and need to either be amended or repealed, a lot of them fixed problems that harmed our nation. Our environment is cleaner and our workers are safer because of oversight and regulations.
Now, Donald Trump wants to dismantle the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau by appointing Mick Mulvaney as director. The CFPB was created in response to the abuses by Wall Street bankers that led the Great Recession. Mulvaney called the agency a joke and has already put a moratorium on regulations from the agency. The administration will likely remove protections for consumers and rules that restrict risky banking practices.
Back in the 1960s and 70s, US cities were shrouded in smog. Today, they’re not. In 1969, the Cuyohoga River was so polluted that it caught fire. Lake Erie was essentially a dead lake. Today, both have recovered thanks to environmental regulations. The bald eagle and numerous other birds were on the verge of extinction but have recovered today because of protections put in place by Congress.
In North Carolina, as recently as the early part of this century, mountain vistas were marred by smog. Cities in the state regularly had Code Red days that warned people to stay inside because the quality of the air was unhealthy. In 2002, though, the state legislature passed the Clean Smokestacks Act. Today, those vistas are again pleasing tourists and Raleigh hasn’t a Code Red day in five years.
Twenty years ago, large fish kills were an annual event in the Neuse River. Today, they’re a rare event because of regulations that reduced the amount of oxygen-depleting nutrients released into the water. Estuaries that provide breeding grounds for fish and other marine life are recovering, helping a resurgence in crab and oyster populations.
Almost all of the regulations were passed over the objections of Republicans who claimed that they would harm the economy while not accomplishing their goals. In most cases, they were wrong. Along the coast and in the mountains the regulations helped build a more robust tourism industry at a time when we were losing manufacturing jobs to bad trade deals.
Dismantling the administrative state, as the GOP calls it, might excite big businesses and Republican ideologues, but it should sound alarm bells for the rest of us. Most regulations were put in place to address serious problems. They’ve dramatically improved our environment and protected workers and consumers. Scrapping rules willy-nilly could put our health and economy at risk.