Reconstructing Washington By Trump: The Regulatory State

Reconstructing Washington By Trump: The Regulatory State

In two previous articles, I noted changes at the Trump EPA and Department of Education.  Most of this is in reaction to a series of articles in the November 4th edition of Time magazine.  As one reads the articles, one gets the serious impression that the magazine has absolutely no idea of what conservative government looks like.  Likewise, the dismantling of large Obama-era regulations is depicted as a some chamber of horrors.  Yet, when looking at some of the regulations they cite, one is left with the perception of “So what?”

For example:

  • “The Interior Department has reviewed all national monuments created since 1996 that are 100,000 acres and has submitted proposals to downsize several of them.”  In fact, only seven of the 21 listed monuments were established under Obama.  Six are suggested for reduction in size, three are to be left alone and the status of the other 12 are to be determined.  Further, this is merely a request to review their status.  All except two are located in the western US where the the country owns vast swaths of land regardless.
  • “The Federal Reserve and FDIC are considering a rule that would allow banks to update every two years, rather than annually…a road map for shutting failing banks.”  Whether they report in 12 or 24 months…does it really make a difference?  Suppose they submit their road map on January 1st, 2017.  They shut down on January 12th, 2018.  Would it make a difference?
  • “Large firms no longer have to report detailed pay data- showing how female and minority employees are compensated- to the EEOC.”  The EEOC is tasked with investigating and dealing with cases of workplace discrimination.  It is not their task to build cases of prima facie discrimination based on statistical data.  Regardless, that information is readily available if needed to prove a case.
  • “The Labor Department delayed a requirement that mines are inspected before the start of a shift.”  There are 2-3 shifts per day.  Are 2-3 inspections really necessary?
  • “The Interior Department changed its rules to allow lead bullets and tackle to be used on federal land.”  And?
  • “The Department of Health and Human Services rolled back a rule requiring employers to include birth control coverage in health insurance plans.”  The world got along just fine before Obamacare’s mandates and its getting along just fine now.

But, it is probably in their treatment of Ben Carson at Housing and Urban Development where the series of articles seems to show their true colors.  The first stripe revealed is that apparently every regulation enacted under Obama is above scrutiny or reproach.  Whether we are talking about redefinition of “waters of America,” the federal government sticking their noses in public bathrooms in schools, or what should or should not appear in an individual’s health care coverage down to the number of mine inspections per day, there is the assumption that all these regulations were somehow desperately necessary and it was only the progressive pen of Barack Obama that cured the alleged wrongs.

The article mentions that Carson seems genuinely concerned with the role HUD plays and, more importantly, he views housing assistance as a way station between dependence and independence, or the classic conservative mantra of “a hand up, not a hand out.”  And public housing assistance has become a government hand out.  In 1995, the average stay on assistance was 3 years.  Today it averages over six years.  But then they negate all this and poo-pooh it away with a circular argument about the relation between employment and housing which are the basic arguments of liberal think tanks cited in the article.  Those assertions are ringing somewhat hollow with unemployment as low as it is, although one can make an argument that there is still ground to be made up.

Carson would like to wean people off public housing assistance which is a lofty and conservative goal.    He believes the solution lies in the states and the private sector.  With regards to states, the Moving to Work program allows states to experiment with and test new housing policies designed to lessen the number of people on public assistance.  With the private sector through the tax code and low-income tax credit which provides tax breaks to build affordable housing, he is trying to lessen government largesse.  Are these such bad things that they portray the Trump administration as a wrecking crew undoing Washington?  If so, then we, as conservatives, should welcome the wrecking crew.

It is not that the people Trump appointed and who now run these agencies are a wrecking crew per se.  They are more accurately “roller backers” of largely Obama-era regulatory overreach in so many areas.  The problem for conservatives and conservative policies is that the Left will always have the inevitable sob story to trot out and a compliant media willing to portray that sob story as the norm.  If people like Ben Carson, Scott Pruitt and Betsy DeVos (to name but three) can forge forward with the so-called “demolition of government as we know it,” then perhaps the problem isn’t the demolition; the problem is “government as we know it.”

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