By Julie McNamara, Union of Concerned Scientists
Are you a new political appointee looking to join your administration peers in governing by deregulatory splash? Does the idea of winning the title of Best Worst Rule-Maker of Them All make you want to jump to the front to assume the mantle of dismantle? Would you be interested in throwing logic, scholarship, and ethics out the window in favor of the unbridled thrill of flying by the seat of no pants?
If yes, then read on, because the below five tips have been systematically shown to plummet Trump appointees from hero to zero in under one rulemaking flat.
(And if not? Oh heavens, have we been waiting for you. Here, feast on a vast buffet of science-based, people-focused, socially beneficial guidance, and rejoin us in the pursuit of progress.)
1. Give yourself a (lucrative) challenge.
Find a cause that will benefit a vanishingly small number of people and unequivocally harm the rest. Like, say, something a top donor would request. No guiding by the compass of public benefit or net social good—please! Yuck! That’s practically cheating. Pro tip: You’ll know you’re really onto something when diction in the comment docket starts escalating from “flawed” to “egregious,” from “impractical” to “absurd,” from “misguided” to “STOP THE TRAIN I WANT TO GET OFF.” There should be no room for “meh” here—commit yourself to claims of “specious” or bust!
Bonus points awarded if your proposal: 1) requires upending economic markets, 2) runs counter to science, and/or 3) needs multiple parts of multiple sections of a statute changed or “reinterpreted” just to hang together.
2. Restrict the science that’s counter to your conclusions.
It’s true, you’ll still need something to back up your work. But don’t let that inconvenient “science” get you down—you can just rule out the data and analyses you don’t like. All you have to do is click your heels and repeat after me: There’s no place like industry-funded laboratories. There’s no place like industry-funded laboratories. There’s no place like industry-funded laboratories. And voila! Under the crystal-clear cover of transparency, you can blot out all the facts.
3. Exclude the benefits that are unhelpful to your cause.
Where you’re going, honest math won’t work quite right. The tallying of costs and benefits will definitely need to be tweaked. But we’re not talking about a classic smudging of the ledger here—we’re talking a flat-out erasure of the public good. It’s audacious, yes. But it’s also necessary if you’re going to hide the fact that your proposal is an appalling loser for all but your most favored few. So keep it focused, keep it tight, and whatever you do, do not, I repeat do not, let those public health benefits count—the value of saving people’s lives just adds up too fast. Forget ’em!
4. Ban the voices you don’t want to hear.
It turns out a lot of people don’t totally love it when you threaten the people and places they hold dear. And, at least for the time being, you’re required to let them object. But don’t lose hope! You still have a lot of levers left to pull here.
For example, cap public hearings at just one (all the better if in a random location); make comment periods aggressively, impossibly, no-way-you-could-ever-counter-analyze-it-in-this-window short; and purge those subject-matter experts from your advisory boards—their dogged little pursuit of truth will be nothing but trouble for your cause.
Crank industry talking points UP, science and health experts DOWN.
5. Drag those timelines out.
Now even fully committed to the task at hand—finding those challenges, nixing that science, excising those benefits, and muting that opposition—there remains the unavoidable fact that this administration keeps on losing in the courts. Like, badly:
An agency cannot simply disregard contrary or inconvenient factual determinations that it made in the past, any more than it can ignore inconvenient facts when it writes on a blank slate.”
So how to overcome?
Commit yourself to wasting that sweet, sweet, money-making time. Drag those timelines out! Because fine, sure, you’ll lose eventually, but eventually isn’t today, which means you’ve just granted your pals one more day to plunder. And in this administration? That is an unabashed win.
And that’s it! Just five simple tips on how to forget everything that was ever true and sow chaos and disrepair everywhere.
Follow these, and I promise, you’ll fit right in.