By Caroline Ristaino, Public Citizen
On June 5, the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards, an alliance of more than 160 public advocacy groups that is chaired by Public Citizen, hosted “The War on Regulation: Good for Corporations, Bad for the Public” symposium. The event, which featured Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh as keynote speakers, laid out the current deregulatory frenzy: how the Trump administration is carrying it out, and how it threatens the safety and wellbeing of everyday Americans.
In his opening remarks, Public Citizen President Robert Weissman highlighted three themes that would emerge from the symposium. First, the White House has justified deregulation by “systematically suppressing evidence” and employing “constructs that are untrue.” Second, corporate, not ideological, interests are driving deregulation. And finally, regulatory processes are often discussed in abstract terms but their consequences play out in the lives of everyday people.
“What’s the difference between basic safety for toasters and housing mortgages?” Sen. Warren asked in her keynote address. In the 1970s, leaving a piece of toast to cook too long could light your home on fire. Before the federal government required safety regulations for toaster ovens, toasters had a one in five probability of bursting into flames. In 2007, mortgages were as likely as 1970s toasters to cost a family their home. And in 2007, there was no government agency to stop the sale of exploding mortgages.
Following the 2008 economic crash, Warren founded the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)—a federal agency to protect Americans from implosive mortgages (among other risky investments) in the same way that the government has protected consumers from highly-flammable toasters. Today, the Trump administration is dismantling the rules that, in Warren’s words, “empower people to live, work, and do business freely and safely.” This war on regulation, she argued, “is a war on public health, a war on public safety, a war on truly free American markets, a war on American workers, a war on American consumers.”
Corruption has made this deregulatory frenzy possible. The appointment of Scott Pruitt, a former coal industry lawyer, to Environmental Protection Agency chief is only one example of how Trump has put the foxes in charge of the henhouse. Meanwhile, Republican congresspersons, beholden to corporate lobbyists, have peddled the false narrative that regulations restrict freedoms and prevent businesses from succeeding. Warren asserted that the opposite is true. In fact, regulations create more freedom and safety by “allowing us to get what we’re promised, keeping thieves out of our pockets, and leveling the playing field for everyone competing for our business.”
Knowledge is power, but not enough people know about this threat to public protections. So, please share this guide released in conjunction with the event that outlines all of the ways that the Trump administration is at attacking government regulations. With enough voices weighing in, we will ultimately win the war against regulations, and protect the government’s power to safeguard the people.