Hearing someone describe a situation as “one step forward, two steps back” is never a good thing. When it involves efforts to protect people’s health or public safety, the consequences can be dire. President Trump doesn’t care. He’s making good on a ludicrous campaign pledge that for every one regulation issued by a federal agency, the agency will have to offset the cost by eliminating two existing regulations.
He issued that order today. The nonsense goes something like this:
FAA: “We need to enhance testing requirements to protect against flocking birds affecting airplane engines. That’s the grave situation that led Capt. Sully Sullenberger to land an Airbus 320 in the Hudson River.”
“You want that rule? OK, let’s get rid of the pesky regulation that requires a 10-hour rest period for pilots. Sleep is for sissies.
“You’ll have to get rid of another one too. How about the rule that requires a minimum number of flight attendants. Flight attendants are over-rated. I hear they don’t even serve meals anymore.
“I’m brilliant. See how easy it is–one in, two out.”
Labor Department: “Mine workers are developing lung disease from breathing too much respirable silica dust. It’s a national embarrassment that U.S. workers are dying from black lung disease and silicosis. We need a regulation to reduce the amount of silica dust mine workers have to breathe on the job.”
“You want that rule? OK, let’s get rid of the pesky rule requiring a mine operator to check regularly for proper airflow in their underground mine. It’s been more than five years since a coal mine blew-up.
“You’ll have to get rid of another one. How about the rule that requires mine operators to build berms on roadways at surface mines. Mine workers should just be careful not to drive off a cliff.
“I’m amazing. See how easy it is–one in, two out.”
Ken Kimmel, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said this about Trump’s edict:
“This executive order is absurd, imposing a Sophie’s choice on federal agencies. If, for example, the EPA wants to issue a new rule to protect kids from mercury exposure, will it need to get rid of two other science-based rules, such as limiting lead in drinking water and cutting pollution from school buses?
“It is also likely illegal. Congress has not called upon EPA to choose between clean air and clean water, and the president cannot do this by executive fiat. As is the case with so many other actions we have seen since the inauguration, Mr. Trump is capturing showy headlines while he drives us off a cliff.” (More from UCS here and here.)
Robert Verchick, president of the Center for Progressive Reform, said this about it:
“It seeks to ration the American people’s health and safety by forcing agencies to arbitrarily drop rules, even if those regulations prevent illnesses, reduce exposure to toxic chemicals, or decrease the number of deaths and serious injuries in the workplace.
“By focusing on the often-exaggerated costs of regulations, the order ignores the enormous, life-saving benefits that public safeguards deliver to us all. This is not effective government, it won’t create jobs, and it won’t improve our communities.”
Public Citizen also issued a statement which notes:
“This executive order (EO) is as radical and unworkable as the other ones Trump has signed. It will result in immediate and lasting damage to our government’s ability to save lives, protect our environment, police Wall Street, keep consumers safe and fight discrimination.”
The Washington Post’s story included this quintessential Trump-speak quote from the President about this new executive order:
“This will be the largest ever cut by far in terms of regulations. If you have a regulation you want, number one we’re not going to approve it because it’s already been approved probably in 17 different forms.”
“But if we do, the only way you have a chance is we have to knock out two regulations for every new regulation. So if there’s a new regulation, they have to knock out two. But it goes way beyond that.”
I’m sorry to see President Trump’s first awful step toward a regulatory system that is guaranteed to degrade public health protections.