Time and again, Candidate Donald Trump promised to "drain the swamp in Washington." He swore to curb lobbying of government by special interest groups to procure favors for their clients.
But instead, President Trump has cut out the middleman - he's gone directly into the business of of corporate giveaways. He's already gutted most of the regulations on a "wish list" submitted to him by the Business Roundtable, a $6 trillion lobby of top executives.
And this is just the first wave of pro-business actions: Trump has pledged in an executive order to remove two existing regulations for every new one. He's already removed 90 in his first weeks in office, and if his record thus far is any guide, there are more giveaways to come.
The 'Wish List'
The Business Roundtable is a lobbying organization for corporations with more than $6 trillion in annual revenues. On February 23, they polled their members and came up with a list of sixteen regulations they wanted Trump to get rid of as quickly as possible.
USA Today summarizes their top priorities for removal:
● The Environmental Protection Agency's proposal to prevent construction of new coal-fired electric utilities, unless they're equipped with "carbon
capture and control" systems, which mitigate carbon dioxide emissions. Business Roundtable called it an example of "EPA overreach infringing on state authority."
● The EPA’s “Waters of the United States” rule, which identifies rivers, streams, lakes and marshes that fall under the jurisdiction of the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers. Its proponents say the 2015 measure protects waterways and drinking water. Business Roundtable says it "vastly expanded federal jurisdiction over state waters."
● Publicly traded companies are required to disclose CEO pay as a ratio of average employee pay. Business Roundtable says the numbers are "arbitrary and often meaningless." Rule proponents say it provides more transparency to shareholders.
● Public companies also must disclose annually if their products contain “conflict minerals” from the Congo or African nations. "These rules impose extraordinary compliance costs," Business Roundtable says.
Let's make this plain. The BRT wants goverment to:
● Let coal companies pollute the air.
● Let corporations pollute our water.
● Don't make corporations disclose how much more their executives are paid than regular employees.
● Don't make corporations disclose if they are funding African wars by buying "conflict minerals."
But wait, if you look closely at the full sixteen-point "wish list", they want government to give them even more.
● Don't block corporations from polluting by lowering "ground-level ozone" standards.
● Get rid of "earnings-stripping" (Sec. 385) regulations that let giant corporations dodge taxes by blocking certain uses of offshore tax havens.
● Get rid of rules requiring employers to pay overtime ( and in many cases, pay at all) for more than 40 hours work.
● Get rid of the Fair Pay & Safe Workplaces Executive Order that tries to stop wage theft and civil rights discrimination by federal contractors.
● Get rid of "net neutrality."
This is the epitome of a "swamp list." Each of these hurts regular people, but can boost profits for giant corporations. "Drain the swamp?" I don't think so. The swamp is rising.
So far, Trump has delivered for giant "swamp" corporations, but not for 'We the People.'
● Trump is allowing coal companies to pollute the air and water.
● Trump is blocking the "fiduciary rule" requiring financial advisers to consider their clients’ best interests before their own when advising about retirement accounts. In other words, they can freely scam and fleece people, sending them into retirement in poverty,
● Trump signed a Republican-passed bill allowing severely mentally ill people to buy guns. (Gun industry.) I don't think the harm this does needs to be spelled out here.
● Trump has blocked regulations requiring oil and mining companies to disclose bribes paid to foreign dictators.
● Trump is allowing hunters to use lead bullets in nationally protected wildlife areas, poisoning animals, land and water.
And According to the New York Times, these corporate giveaways are just the tip of what's to come:
Giants in telecommunications, like Verizon and AT&T, will not have to take “reasonable measures” to ensure that their customers’ Social Security numbers, web browsing history and other personal information are not stolen or accidentally released.
Wall Street banks like Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase will not be punished, at least for now, for not collecting extra money from customers to cover potential losses from certain kinds of high-risk trades that helped unleash the 2008 financial crisis.
Why is this happening?
In many cases, records show that the changes came after appeals by corporate lobbyists and trade association executives, who see a potentially historic opportunity to lower compliance costs and drive up profits.
According to the Times,
"The administration started its campaign against regulation on the afternoon of Inauguration Day, with a memo from Reince Priebus, Mr. Trump’s chief of staff, instructing agencies to halt work on new regulations and to delay putting completed regulations into effect.
So far, the effective dates of at least 75 rules have been delayed as a result of this order, based on an analysis of the Federal Register. "
Trump is going to roll back auto emissions and fuel standards. People with asthma and similar problems can tell you how that hurts.
Do we need rules protecting first responders and nearby communities when corporations store large amounts of dangerous chemicals? Nope, Republicans are blocking them, too. There are roughly 150 "catastrophic accidents" annually because of this, and "a greater percentage of African Americans, Latinos, and people in poverty living near these facilities (are) at higher risk for exposure to chemical releases."
Never mind what Trump and the Republicans in Congress say, this is what they do.
This is what they prioritize.
This is how our system gets rigged.
This is who they are.