Two for one

Trump’s other stupid item yesterday – signing an order saying if you want a regulation you have to give up two existing regulations. Spoken like a true market fundamentalist, who just assumes that regulation is inherently bad. Right. Those busybodies who made it impossible to sell Thalidomide; what were they thinking? Regulations against fraud, pollution, exploitation – all a caTAAAAAStrophe, if you’re Pinhead Trump.

It’s hard to overstate just how silly and arbitrary this notion is. It’s sloganeering, not public policy – but we’d all pay for it if such an absurd vision of regulatory reform actually became reality.

It isn’t hard to see how Trump’s catchphrase would play out in the real world, for the worse. Say an industrial cleaner or pesticide turns out to be harmful to humans in ways that weren’t understood before. Should regulators really have to go digging for two unrelated regulations to eliminate before they can do something about it?

Or say a new financial product cooked up by unsavory lenders is proliferating on the internet. Should regulators really have to let financial institutions go unshackled in two unrelated ways before stepping in?

No, of course not. Government should regulate the things that need to be regulated in order to protect the health of the population and prevent people from being duped – full stop.

But Republicans think the answer is yes, of course. Market fundamentalism is one of their non-negotiables.

For instance, for years Republicans in Congress and on the presidential campaign trail have been promulgating the idea of a “regulatory cap”: a limit on the amount that regulations can “cost” in any given year.

If it gets too expensive to ban the sale of Thalidomide, well, I guess women will just have to assume the risk again.

Trump – and the wider GOP, for that matter – also seem to suffer under the idea that deregulation has no cost. To refute that, I’d refer them to: 2008, the financial crisis of.

In the buildup to that mess – which was a bipartisan effort, to be sure – regulations on new, dangerous financial products were either prevented from coming into being or utterly ignored. The result was trillions of dollars of wealth evaporating.

But hedge-fund managers got very very very rich. Surely that’s all that matters.

The good news is that there may be more theater to Trump’s order than actual effect, as has been the case with some of his previous efforts. If an agency already has legal authority to make a new rule, it’s unclear if the president can just force it to do something else before implementation. As Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, told the Washington Post, “Congress has not called upon EPA to choose between clean air and clean water, and the president cannot do this by executive fiat.”

You can’t blame a guy for trying.

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