The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: Phone: (202) 588-1000

Corporate Junk Economics Comes to Capitol Hill: Rep. Issa Asks Industry for Wish List on So-Called 'Regulatory Burden'

Statement of Robert Weissman, President, Public Citizen


Watch out for corporate junk economics on Capitol Hill.

Rep. Darrell Issa, chair of the House Oversight and Government
Affairs Committee, has reportedly asked more than 150 trade
associations, corporations and think tanks to provide a wish list of
public health, environmental and other public protections that they
would like to see eliminated. The purported rationale for such an effort
is to spur growth, but in fact this is the cutting edge of a movement
to trade away public health, clean air and a stable economy to gin up
corporate profits already at record highs.

If Rep. Issa actually wants to focus on job preservation and growth, he might consider the following:

* Business is plenty good for business right now, just not for
workers. Corporations earned record profits in the past quarter - U.S.
corporations raked in profits at an annual rate of $1.659 trillion in
the third quarter of 2010. Corporations' failure to hire has nothing to
do with public protections.
* Corporations and their apologists routinely overstate the costs of
public protections and ignore their benefits. To take one example, the
Heritage Foundation attributes more than a third of all costs of
regulation issued in 2010 to fuel economy standards. Yet Heritage fails
to mention that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found
those rules would confer benefits three times as great as the costs.
Indeed, even the Bush administration found that major regulations'
benefits far outweigh their costs, concluding that the total cost of
major regulations issued from 1997-2007 was between $46 billion and $53
billion, while benefits were, at minimum, more than twice that: $122
billion to $656 billion.
* We need to regulate Wall Street and other big corporations in order to
save jobs. The failure to regulate Wall Street - and to enforce
existing regulations - led directly to the Great Recession and the loss
of 8 million jobs (most of those in the small-business sector). An
oversight committee concerned about job preservation and growth should
prioritize looking at the ways Wall Street and the big banks are
under-regulated and push hard for more controls over the reckless
financial sector.
* We need to regulate Big Business to stop rampant criminality and
wrongdoing. Example: In the last five years alone, Big Pharma has paid
$14.8 billion in penalties for allegedly violating federal and state
laws, primarily for cheating the federal and state governments on price,
and for improperly marketing medicines for purposes for which they had
not been approved.
* Clean air, healthy workplace and other rules regularly force
innovation - creating new jobs and economic dynamism. Responding to the
existential threat of climate change is an extraordinary economic
opportunity - to build whole new industries and lower energy input costs
across the board. But we'll never capture those benefits - nor, more
importantly, prevent climate catastrophe - unless rules are set down to
force private sector action.

Rather than providing a platform for presentation of a corporate
wish list, Rep. Issa should be subjecting corporate claims to the
withering scrutiny he promises for the Obama administration. These
claims collapse under examination.

It's time we ended the Kabuki theater of corporate whining, and got
on with the serious business of creating jobs and making America safer
and cleaner.

Public Citizen is a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization that champions the public interest in the halls of power. We defend democracy, resist corporate power and work to ensure that government works for the people - not for big corporations. Founded in 1971, we now have 500,000 members and supporters throughout the country.

(202) 588-1000