Since President Trump took office in January, nearly 100 government regulations across industries have been suspended or reversed. And a recent executive order stated that for every new regulation introduced, two existing regulations must be eliminated (though the enforceability of this order remains in question).
But for a president who ran on a platform of being for “the people,” are these regulation slashes really doing anything for the everyday American?
Yes and no. Trump’s loosening regulations have drawn both praise and criticism across party lines. For instance, an Obama-era rule requiring the Social Security Administration to share data with handgun sellers on citizens who receive mental health services was deemed discriminatory by the A.C.L.U. The policy, they argue, reinforces an unfair stigma that people with mental disabilities are prone to violence. President Trump revoked the rule in late February, garnering praise from both conservative gun advocates and liberal civil liberties proponents.
Meanwhile, many anti-gun Democrats came out strongly against Trump’s rule reversal. The rule would have affected 75,000 people receiving social security benefits for mental illness so debilitating that they are unable to work or manage their finances without the help of a third party. Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat representing the tragedy-stricken town of Newtown, Conn., commented, “If you can’t manage your own financial affairs, how can we expect you are going to be a responsible steward of a dangerous, lethal firearm?”
Trump is also taking aim at environmental regulations: he’s overturned a rule that prohibited dumping coal debris in streams, and is expected to roll back fuel-efficiency regulations later this week. Auto execs argue the regulations are too expensive to implement, but environmentalists and consumer advocates say they will cut back both emissions and consumer costs.
This appears to be a theme of President Trump’s regulations rollbacks — corporations and executives benefit seemingly at the expense of middle- and lower-income Americans.
Another set of regulations that were recently suspended would have made high-speed internet more accessible to all, provided discount internet service to low-income individuals, and reduced the cost of phone calls for prisoners. After telecom giants like Verizon and Comcast objected to these regulations, Trump’s newly appointed F.C.C. chair struck them down in his first week in office, much to the dismay of consumer advocates.
“The public wants an F.C.C. that helps people,” said Matt Wood of consumer group Free Press. “Instead, it got one that does favors for the powerful corporations that its chairman used to work for.”
Perhaps most unsettling are President Trump’s decisions regarding the financial sector. Since the 2008 financial crisis, the government has implemented increased financial regulations to keep consumers safe from future crashes. But Trump’s administration is loosening these restrictions on banks like Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase, leaving the average American more vulnerable.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, proposed after the financial crisis by then-law professor Elizabeth Warren, was established to protect consumers from financial threats and misleading claims by corporations and big banks. The bureau has returned some $11.8 billion to consumers since its inception in 2011. Republicans have long wanted to do away with the agency, citing damage to community banks and a lack of accountability to elected officials. And it looks like President Trump is aiming to do just that.
But this lack of regulation stands only to benefit the 1%. As one columnist put it, “Powerful people do well from booms and busts. The rest of us can expect deeper inequality and more crisis-induced poverty.”
All told, the president’s aggressive first wave of regulatory cutbacks raises huge concern for the American consumer. Business regulations may cause some compliance headaches for large companies, but they have been proven to bring more social and financial net gains than the cost of compliance.
As consumer advocates made clear in a recent letter to the White House, Americans may have voted for Trump, but they “did not vote to be exposed to more health, safety, environmental and financial dangers.”