A Look at the “Forgotten 15″: Does the GOP’s Radical Deregulation Agenda Actually Create Jobs?

The Republican jobs plan.It’s not hard to see why Republicans do so well on Twitter: in a forum that limits debate to 140 characters, there’s no room for principled disagreement, shades of grey, or arguments backed up by facts. It’s the perfect environment for unsubstantiated talking points like, “drill baby drill!”, “Where’s the birth certificate?”, and the Republican House majority’s job creation “strategy,” which apparently fits in a hash tag: #forgotten15, a reference to 15 “job creating” bills passed by the Republican House, but stalled out by the Democratic Senate.

Terrifying, isn’t it?! Why wouldn’t the Democrats pass job-creating legislation!? Well, let’s find out. Here, a review of the bills Eric Cantor gladly tags as job-creators, through an increasingly creative bill-naming process:

  1. Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act (HR 872): substantially deregulates the use of insecticides in farming, by expanding those situations where a permit for the insecticide’s use is not required.
  2. Energy Tax Prevention Act (HR 910): bars the EPA from taking into account “climate change” when restricting the emissions of acknowledged greenhouse gases like sulfur hexaflouride, hydroflourocarbons (like freon), and carcinogenic/poisonous perflourocarbons.
  3. Disapproval of FCC’s Net Neutrality Regulations (HJ Res 37): just like it says, this nonbinding resolution would express Congress’ “disapproval” of proposed FCC rules banning corporations from charging disproportionately for certain types of internet access. Conservatives like to conflate net neutrality with the discredited Fairness Doctrine — because they kinda sound alike — but “net neutrality” means neither the government nor corporations could charge for internet use based on type or amount of access. Why conservative voters want a world where they’ll pay more for internet access, I’ll never know; but for conservative lawmakers, it’s a clear play for donations from the telecomm companies that stand to benefit from being able to charge higher rates.
  4. Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act (HR 2018): lets states submit compliance plans to the EPA, but without any real guidance. So, under this bill, a state could functionally deregulate water pollution, and the EPA would be forced to sign off — which is precisely what would, and does happen. Energy companies are  tragically and phenomenally successful at fracturing public opinion about whether and how to sell off their land for a quick buck.
  5. Consumer Financial Protection & Soundness Improvement Act (HR 1315): defangs the Consumer Protection Bureau; changes the systemic oversight council’s mission from protecting “the safety and soundness of the United States banking system” and “the stability of the financial system of the United States” to “the safe and sound operations of United States financial institutions”… seriously. I could not make this up. And in keeping with radical pro-business, anti-family thinking, in a move supported by the Heritage Foundation, this “Consumer Financial Protection” act ends the Federal Housing Administration’s underwater mortgage buyout program, meaning, quite simply, that more Americans will lose their homes.
  6. Protecting Jobs From Government Interference Act (HR 2587): terminates the NLRB’s authority to order that an employer “restore or reinstate any work, product, production line, or equipment” or “rescind any relocation, transfer, subcontracting, outsourcing” initiative. The bill targets one of the far-right’s new pet causes — an NLRB action that seeks to block Boeing from moving an airline construction plant from a union state, to union-free South Carolina, as possible retribution for previous union bargaining initiatives. Query whether the bill would save jobs, or simply move them to more business-friendly states.
  7. Transparency In Regulatory Analysis Of Impacts On The Nation (HR 2401): orders the President (?) to establish a committee reviewing the “feasibility” of clean air standards. Note the constitutional issue, that the Act doesn’t actually do anything, and in contravention of Republican Rule #1, it spends $3,000,000 just to constitute the Committee.
  8. Cement Sector Regulatory Relief Act (HR 2681): stays EPA rules applicable only to a specific group of cement producers, and directs the EPA to issue more favorable rules, and cuts back the definition of the term “solid waste.”
  9. EPA Regulatory Relief Act (HR 2250): stays existing EPA regulations, and orders the agency to re-promulgate rules that “can be met under actual operating conditions.” In other words, without any change to industry practice.
  10. Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act (HR 2273): devolves the regulation of “coal combustion residuals,” responsible for a devastating industrial accident in Kingston Valley, Tennessee, to the states.
  11. Restarting American Offshore Leasing Now Act (HR 1230) [not yet reported to the Senate]: directs the EPA to approve four specified offshore drilling leases, by name, and deems them environmentally sound for EPA purposes.
  12. Putting the Gulf of Mexico Back to Work Act (HR 1229): extends some offshore leases in the Gulf of Mexico, while severely limiting private rights of action challenging agency decisions to grant leases. Under HR 1229, challenges could be filed only within 60 days of agency action, heard only within the Fifth Circuit (despite or, presumably, because of their conflict-of-interest problem), and resolved in the agency’s favor based only on the agency’s record, without the benefit of extrinsic evidence. Presumably, these limitations look forward to a future Republican presidential administration, and a Republican EPA willing to grant any license requested.
  13. Reversing President Obama’s Offshore Moratorium Act (HR 1231): directs the EPA to lease 50% of all available drilling locations in the Gulf of Mexico, and set an aggressive production schedule.
  14. Jobs and Energy Permitting Act of 2011 (HR 2021): neuters all EPA rules related to the Clean Air Act would apply to offshore drilling operations, and provides that environmental impact will be measured at shore. So, to Hell with the Gulf of Mexico, I guess.
  15. North American-Made Energy Security Act (HR 1938): expedites approval of the Keystone XL pipeline — a Koch brothers project that’s likely unnecessary, expands our dependence on dirty and foreign energy sources, would create tens of thousands of dirty-energy jobs but only at the expense of millions of clean-energy jobs, and risks catastrophic spills over vital interstate aquifers, a real risk considering repeated spills in the Trans-Alaskan system.

This isn’t a job-creation strategy; it’s a love letter to hazardous industry, and the same radical deregulation strategy, calling for a return to the turn-of-the-century working conditions, that’s been rejected by the voters time and time again. Only now, the House majority’s repackaged each individual sell-out as “job creating,” relying on the shaky major premise that deregulation of finance and heavy industry goes hand-in-hand with job creation. Perhaps that idea holds together for bills #11-14 — in some cases, we will have to decide between long-term environmental health and short-term job creation — but it’s tough to see how letting corporations charge differential, higher rates for internet access (#3), or move jobs away from union states and into non-union states (#6), results in any net addition to the workforce.

I understand we may not believe in Keynes anymore — even though we hardly gave him a chance this time around. But it’s telling, isn’t it, that Republicans offer nothing in the way of an alternative model. Instead, we’re expected to fall for the stimulus bill’s evil twin: rather than invest in our future with aggressive, government-funded public works, we’ll sell our health and our heritage to private corporations, trusting that they’ll deal with us fairly, and that an increase in their bottom line will translate to more than a handful of transient, unskilled, low-paying, dangerous jobs in heavy industry. Has this ever worked before?

9 comments

  1. That list of Cantor’s made me wonder about two things.

    First, why the House majority apparently wastes its time passing bills they must know don’t have a snowball’s chance of getting through the Senate.

    And second, why, unlike on any responsible politician’s website, there are no links to the actual bills so you could see what they’re about.

    But then I reminded myself it was Eric Cantor’s website.

  2. If #6 instead got rid of the NLRB’s ability to declare strikes and other union activities illegal at the same time it made jobowner retribution legal, and eliminated unions’ duties to represent non-members, I’d favor it. So basically a complete reworking of US labor law: unfettered unions, unfettered management, and the union gets to tell non-members to go fuck themselves instead of having to bargain on their behalf. What’s not to like?

    And honest question: why do we treat the status quo as desirable hence that climate change is bad rather than just different? It’s like biodiversity. If rats kill off all the native critters on an island, why dies the destruction of the existing species count for more than the creation down the line of a new species from those rats? Is there some “present value of taxon” rule like for money?

    To be clear, I last studied earth sciences in 8th grade and biology in 9th (I think) so I may be ignorant of basic concepts that make my questions dumb.

    1. And honest question: why do we treat the status quo as desirable hence that climate change is bad rather than just different? If rats kill off all the native critters on an island, why dies the destruction of the existing species count for more than the creation down the line of a new species from those rats? Is there some “present value of taxon” rule like for money?

      For one thing, it’s not quite on the same scale – the extinction of a single species may be one thing, but climate change puts thousands of species at risk all over the globe. It’s not a natural process, either, but one that we both caused and do have the capacity to prevent.

      There’s a huge economic cost involved as well. Just as one tiny example, we have lots of people here in some suburbs of Copenhagen who suddenly have found they can’t sell their houses because the location has become at risk of flooding just over the past two or three years. And other regions obviously face vastly greater challenges – famine, droughts, large-scale flooding, forest fires, etc. etc.

  3. “And honest question: why do we treat the status quo as desirable”

    Because human society and its food sources are part of the status quo.

  4. I understand we may not believe in Keynes anymore — even though we hardly gave him a chance this time around.

    Well, it seems from today’s NYT poll (esp. p. 14, q. 34-37) that the US public at least is still pretty heavily Keynesian:

    http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/10/26/us/politics/20111026_POLL.html

    1. First, aren’t “jobs” a subset of “economy” on that “what’s most pressing?” question?

      Second, regarding questions 35, 36, and 37, let me just say that as a municipal public employee who works in the infrastructure-building sector, I think the right answers to 35 and 36 are “bad idea” and the right answer to 37 is “it depends on who’s spending the money”. Let me explain why. First, 35 and 36 just creates an unnecessary middleman (the federal government) between the origin of the money (taxes or bonds) and the user of the money (the state and local governments). If the feds pay the states and local governments, then the feds have to raise taxes to cover what they give the state and local governments – plus they have to raise taxes to cover the administrative costs of distributing that money, and the state and local governments have administrative costs in applying for the federal money and complying with oversight requirements. If the state and local governments raise the money themselves, they raise taxes in the amount of what the federal government would have to raise in order to give them – and that’s it. No additional administrative overhead. I.E., no waste – and also no undeserved cover for state and local politicians getting to blame DC for the taxes it takes to pay for their decisions.

      37’s got similar problems, plus a much bigger problem. Most of the federal infrastructure funding I know of comes from competitive grants. I’m not saying some states and cities and regional authorities (water/sewer/trash/transit/etc.) knowingly and deliberately fill their grant applications with misleading descriptions, inflated benefit estimates, and (especially) deflated cost estimates (mainly by basing their costs on a barebones scope they know they have no intention of sticking to). I’m saying damn near every state/city/regional government does it. I’m not saying there’s a little problem of states and cities submitting applications for low-priority projects because they think they can get grant money for it, and then that grant money gets awarded and isn’t available for more deserving projects. I’m saying there’s a huge problem with it.

      Granted, competitively-obtained funding is harder to spend on building some white elephant the mayor wants than municipal bond money. I don’t know that that makes up for it, though – since the city’ll probably use the “savings” from using competitive money on something else to build the mayor’s pipe dream. Fucking people.

      1. Well, the thing about federal spending is that (contrary to Republican talking points) the government can indeed spend money it doesn’t have by issuing Treasury bonds. So it can borrow money now in greater amounts and at more favourable rates than states can, spend it in regions that need the fiscal boost, then raise taxes at a later date when the economy has (hopefully) recovered.

        As far as the grants are concerned, I’d say aren’t quite as big as they appear, because the important thing from a Keynesian point of view is that the money is being put into the economy a all. Precisely what is being built is a somewhat secondary concern, although obviously it’s preferable to make something worthwhile. (I think it was Jeremy Bentham who argued that you might as well have people move the Stonehenge back and forth between Salisbury and London, as long as they were employed and getting paid.)

  5. […] the representative stalled out this legislative session, and spins environmental de-regulation as “job creation.”  This is the extent of his […]

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