Washington has truly become a place that Alice of Wonderland fame would recognize. Nothing is what it seems and most everything must be viewed through the looking glass.
Legislation that, let's say, purports to guarantee clean water is more likely to protect industries that discharge toxic wastes into lakes and streams. A bill that claims to guarantee auto safety probably guarantees automakers' earnings.
Seen in this light, it is perhaps not surprising that a bill entitled the “Red Tape Reduction and Small Business Job Creation Act” (H.R. 4078) mostly trashes consumer and environmental protection.
The GOP-backed measure, passed by a partisan 245-172 vote, includes seven bills that collectively make it impossible for consumer protections to be developed and implemented. It halts all protections until the unemployment rate falls to 6%, which the Congressional Budget Office estimates may occur at the earliest in 2016.
"We are profoundly disappointed that the House of Representatives voted today to pass a bill that would entirely thwart the ability of federal agencies to protect consumers from unsafe food, predatory financial products, systemically risky financial practices, and dangerous consumer products," said Rachel Weintraub, Director of Product Safety and Senior Counsel at the Consumer Federation of America. "This bill has extreme and negative consequences that will result in harm to American consumers and harm to the U.S. economy. At a time when consumers need more protections, not less, the House of Representatives has tied the hands of government."
Of course, the bill has zero chance of passing the Democrat-controlled Senate, so it is what most would consider a waste of taxpayers' time and money. Not surprisingly, Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Ark.), the measure's sponsor, claims he doesn't see it that way.
“Hardworking Americans deserve a regulatory system that doesn’t hamstring their ability to invest, hire and grow. Yet Arkansas job creators have repeatedly told me how excessive and overly burdensome regulations have prevented them from hiring more employees and growing the economy," Griffin said. "Even President Obama has admitted that ‘unnecessary or too costly’ regulations are ‘placing unreasonable burdens on business [and having] a chilling effect on growth and jobs.’"
Griffin didn't say how curtailing food safety inspections would create more jobs, although his state is home to some pretty big chicken producers, who may have been clucking at him about those bothersome food and workplace safety regulations.
"HR 4078 will halt important food safety regulations that are essential to protect consumers from contaminated food," said Chris Waldrop, Director of the Food Policy Institute at CFA. "The reality is that both consumer groups and the food industry have been urging the Obama Administration to issue new food safety regulations to better assure the safety of fresh produce and imported foods."
“The SEC and CFTC, two agencies with central responsibility for reforming the financial system, already face tremendous burdens when it comes to enacting the tough, effective regulations needed to achieve that goal. H.R. 4078 would make their jobs all but impossible, and leave the financial system vulnerable to Wall Street’s risky, unethical and rapacious practices,” said CFA Director of Investor Protection Barbara Roper. “This is particularly ironic, since it was weak regulation of the financial system that led to the financial crisis that caused our current economic woes.”
Gift to criminals?
“HR 4078 is a gift to the corporate criminal and wrongdoer lobby, pure and simple,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “We need tighter controls over the big banks that are fixing markets, ripping us off and resuming risky practices that threaten economic stability. We need stronger rules to prevent the epidemic of needless death and injury from workplace hazards.
"We need far-reaching rules to avert catastrophic climate change. We need rules to ensure the safety of our food supply. And we need the government to perform its everyday functions. H.R. 4078 would block all of those efforts, in the interest of protecting Wall Street and the polluters, reckless employers and corporations that put dangerous products on the market,” Weissman said.