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That Republican anti-regulation push? It’s killing you

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Republicans love to criticize federal regulations, which they blame on Democrats. For decades, it’s been a GOP mantra: cut regulations, and you’ll save Americans billions of dollars, and create millions of new jobs.

The anti-regulatory rhetoric was taken up by Trump early in his campaign, and that’s one promise he’s in the process of keeping. As the National Review reports, “Trump’s [first] 100 days have made a good start of regulation.”

On the surface, Republicans have a case. The U.S. Code of Regulations “is more than 175,000 pages long,” the National Review says. Meanwhile, a new report claims that the U.S. Government also forced Americans to spend an eye-watering $1.9 trillion in 2016 just to comply with federal regulations.” And, according to the same report, “nobody imposed more [new regulations] than Barack Obama.”

To my way of thinking, to understand any attack on President Obama in the proper context, you have to consider the source. In this case, the new report is from a Washington, D.C. outfit called the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). What is the CEI? One way to judge it is to know who its supporters are. On the organization’s website is a list of fans; they include Ron Paul, Steve Forbes (the ultra-conservative billionaire who ran for president a few times), a fellow named William Armstrong who’s president of Colorado Christian University (and a former Republican Senator) and, oddly, Al Gore. I’ll get to him in a moment.

So, except for Gore, this is your standard lineup of rightwing, Christian conservatives, the same group that’s attacked Barack Obama (and Hillary Clinton, and Bill Clinton, and other Democrats) for decades.

CEI’s chief regulatory policy wonk is a guy named Clyde Wayne Crews. He’s been on an anti-regulatory crusade for a long time. Forbes Magazine (that citadel of capitalism, owned by the aforementioned Steve Forbes) touted him in a recent, anti-regulatory article that cited the specific example of the FDA denying approval of an anti-arthritis drug, Arcoxia, a decision Forbes called “specious.”

Why did the FDA reject Arcoxia, and what can we Americans understand about regulations by its decision? Well, arthritis is certainly a debilitating ailment that affects millions of Americans (including me). You can buy Arcoxia in at least 63 foreign countries, but the FDA still hasn’t approved it here, claiming that the manufacturer, Merck & Co., had not proven the drug’s benefit-to-risk profile.” According to Public Citizen, whose healthcare director, Dr. Sidney Wolfe, testified on the matter to the FDA, Arcoxia “is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular problems” and “offers no unique benefits but carries a risk not associated with older pain relievers.”

I’m old enough to remember a time when thalidomide was peddled as a sedative and anti-nausea drug, which made it popular with pregnant women. Bad choice: some 10,000 American babies were impacted, many born without limbs; 40 percent of them died before their first birthday. “The thalidomide tragedy moved Congress to pass legislation to protect patients from medical experimentation without their consent and to require testing of new drugs before their distribution.” You’d think Americans would be glad that we can never have a repeat of a nightmare like thalidomide, and yet Big Pharma to this day wants to decrease regulations. It would seem obvious that the fewer and lighter regulations are, the greater the risk for another thalidomide.

In place of drug regulations we could talk about air, water, food, workplace safety, railroads, hospitals, nail parlors, tattoo shops, dentists, airports, roadways and automobiles, cosmetics, veterinarians, banking, insurance, construction—all kinds of products and services that Americans use every day, and trust are safe. I welcome the government monitoring these things in order to protect us; and I distrust a political party, and a president, that wishes to lower regulatory standards to a point where it’s almost a given that more of us will die or get ripped off.

Oh, that Al Gore “endorsement” on CEI’s website? They quote him as saying, “Over 20 years, I have seen them [CEI] have a tremendous impact.” Hashtag misleading. The problem is, Gore said that in a negative sense, decrying the deleterious effects of CEI’s anti-regulatory ideology. Gore has been a frequent target of CEI over the years; CEI was involved in the formation of a conservative group that sought “to dispel the myths of global warming by exposing flawed economic, scientific and risk analysis,” and in 2006, following Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” movie, CEI issued a press release announcing “CEI Launches Ad Campaign to Counter Global Warming Alarmism.” And now, we have Trump leaving the Paris accords, just a few weeks after CEI issued this statement: “The President should not listen to Washington’s Swamp, but rather keep his campaign promise to get the United States out of the Paris Climate Treaty…”.

CEI’s funding comes from rightwing sources including the Koch Brothers, the Scaife family (which spent millions digging up dirt on Bill Clinton), and such Big Oil companies as Texaco and Amoco; Big Pharma companies including Pfizer; and Big Tobacco including Philip Morris.

I’m not saying there’s not room to pull back on the regulatory leash. Finding the right balance is tricky. But, to my way of thinking, clearly the Republican Party leans towards no regulation at all, and if they can’t have that, they’ll push for as little as possible. That, to me, is gambling with our health and welfare. These mega-corporations are not on the side of average Americans; their concern is the short-term performance of their stock. We need adequate government supervision of their activities, and anyone who argues to the contrary needs to be considered suspect, including–especially–this current president.

  1. pawineguy says:

    Thalidomide was never sold or approved for use in the US, until it was later resurrected as a cancer drug. Less than 20 babies were affected in the US, because of samples distributed to doctors and trials that were run before approval was rejected. (6 times) It remains the single biggest triumph for the FDA.

    On the regulatory debate, read Jonathan Turley, no friend of the right, who recognizes the danger of the unchecked “4th Branch of Government.”

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