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The Trump administration has delayed a rule that would have protected workers such as this one at a fracking facility in Pennsylvania, where dangerously high levels of silica particles can harm workers' lungs. (Photo: AP)

Deregulation Sacrifices Workers, Public Health for Corporate Profits: Report

'We should be skeptical of claims that regulation hurts the economy, because the truth is that deregulation often hurts working people and allows corporate interests to get a free pass on public accountability'

Nika Knight Beauchamp

President Donald Trump's deregulation agenda will sacrifice worker protections and public health for the sake of corporate profits, according to a new fact sheet out Tuesday from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).

Those findings counter the GOP's frequent claims that regulations are "job-killers." In fact, the EPI found that regulations tend to create jobs. More importantly, they stabilize the economy and protect peoples' health and well-being.

"In examining efforts to repeal regulations, it is important to consider whose interests are served," argued EPI labor counsel Celine McNicholas, who created the fact sheet with director of policy Heidi Shierholz. "We should be skeptical of claims that regulation hurts the economy, because the truth is that deregulation often hurts working people and allows corporate interests to get a free pass on public accountability."

"This agenda reveals a willingness to place corporate concerns ahead of the American people."

Indeed, the fact sheet explored several deregulatory proposals from the Trump administration and outlined who the proposal would hurt, and who it would help. Perhaps unsurprisingly, in all cases corporations come out on top while workers and vulnerable populations stand to suffer the most.

For example, EPI looked at the Trump administration's decision to delay enforcement of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's 2016 rule limiting workers' exposure to dangerous silica dust.

The rule "would have saved over 600 lives and prevented more than 900 new cases of silicosis each year," EPI noted. Without it, the 2.3 million workers who are exposed to silica in their workplace will remain unprotected, while the corporations can continue to cut corners when it comes to workers' health.

Another regulation highlighted in the fact sheet is the fiduciary rule, which forces financial advisors to act in their clients' best interest when giving retirement investment advice. It would bar an advisor from steering a retiree toward investments from which the advisor receives a commission, while offering a lower rate of return to the client. 

The rule was scheduled to go into effect on Monday but under "direction from President Trump—in a thinly veiled attempt to ultimately weaken or rescind the rule—the Department of Labor has delayed implementation of the rule by 60 days," EPI observed.

"Even the delay itself will be expensive for retirement savers," the fact sheet noted. "Every seven days that the fiduciary rule's applicability is delayed costs retirement savers an estimated $431 million over the next 30 years. Thus, the costs of a 60-day delay to retirement savers is $3.7 billion over 30 years."

Meanwhile, myths about regulations touted by corporations and right-wing politicians continue to prevail.

As EPI wrote: "Highlighting only the burdens of the regulation while ignoring its benefits in order to weaken the law's effect has been a dismayingly effective strategy; the word 'regulations' is routinely paired reflexively with 'burdensome.'"

In its fact sheet, EPI examined popular misconceptions and set the record straight. When it comes to the popular "job killing" myth, for example, EPI found that while some regulations result in the loss of jobs, they also create other jobs. "For example, factories making lead paint shut down after regulations banning lead paint were issued in the late 1970s, but enterprises manufacturing lead-free alternatives arose in their place. And some of the older factories hired people to retool their machinery to begin manufacturing lead-free paint," the fact sheet noted.

More importantly, "the lack of sensible regulations can lead to economic catastrophe and the loss of millions of jobs," EPI observed.

"The belief that financial markets can 'self-regulate' is a myth," said Shierholz. "Deregulation and lax enforcement played a major role in the housing bubble and the financial crisis. Nearly nine million jobs were lost in the resulting Great Recession in 2008 and 2009."

"The administration and congressional Republicans are advancing an anti-regulatory agenda, with little consideration for the importance of these regulations to workers, consumers, and the environment," EPI concluded. "Considering that many of the rules targeted for repeal provide broad benefits in terms of public health, environmental protections, and worker protections that vastly outweigh the compliance costs for businesses, this agenda reveals a willingness to place corporate concerns ahead of the American people."

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