Republicans love to say that regulations kill jobs and destroy the economy.
That’s the meme they’ve used to oppose Obamacare, it’s how they attacked the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill and it’s how they frame every argument against common sense environmental laws.
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I hear it every day on my radio program and I see it every day on my TV show. The way Republicans put it, Washington bureaucrats don’t know anything about the economy, and whenever they try to make things better, they end up making things worse.
But in reality, regulations are usually not the job-killers Republicans and Big Business say they are. If anything, good regulations actually create jobs and boost the economy.
Case in point: President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which aims to cut carbon pollution in the US by 30 percent of 2005 levels by 2030.
Ever since it was announced last June, the Clean Power Plan has come under attack from Republicans around the country and the fossil-fuel industry that supports them. They’ve called it everything from a costly disaster to a job-killing attack on the coal industry and an unconstitutional power grab.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has led the charge, writing in a recent piece for the Lexington Herald Leader that, “The regulation is unfair. It’s probably illegal… [a]nd in Kentucky, the regulation would likely… throw countless out of work.”
The legal arguments against the Clean Power Plan don’t really hold much muster, especially now that the DC Circuit Court has thrown out the main case against it.
But because right-wing talking points still dominate the media, the “job-killer” argument against the Clean Power Plan is still very persuasive to a lot of people.
But here’s the thing: that argument is a lie.
Sure, clamping down on coal-fueled power plants will lead to job losses in the handful of states whose economies depend on the coal industry, but in the long run, the Clean Power Plan will actually create jobs.
Yes, you heard that right: Obama’s so-called “war on coal” will actually create jobs – hundreds of thousands of them, in fact.
A new report out this week from the Economic Policy Institute has found that “the CPP [Clean Power Plan] is likely to lead to a net increase of roughly 360,000 jobs in 2020.”
Those job numbers will start to taper off after 2020, but still, this is the exact opposite of the disaster scenario that Republicans say will come about if we regulate carbon pollution.
And it doesn’t even begin to take into account all the positive externalities that will come about from having less toxic greenhouse gasses in our atmosphere.
A healthier climate means a healthier workforce that will live longer, work harder and be less dependent on those so-called “handouts” conservatives are always complaining about, because fewer people will get sick from pollution.
This is what Republicans don’t get about regulations – or pretend not to get – to satisfy the fossil-fuel industry that funds them.
These regulations are not about “punishing job-creators,” they’re about streamlining the rules of the game and improving the market so that everyone – not just the rich and powerful – can benefit.
And here’s the flip-side of the situation: Deregulation has arguably done far more harm to our economy than any poorly-thought-out EPA rule ever has.
When Reagan stopped enforcing the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, one of the most effective regulations in US history, that gave companies free reign with mergers and acquisitions, hemorrhaging millions of jobs in the process.
Pfizer alone has cut 56,000 jobs since 2005 in its quest to gobble up all its Big Pharma rivals.
So-called free trade deals like NAFTA are another example of deregulation run amok.
When NAFTA first came on to the scene in the early 90s, its supporters said it would revolutionize the economy and create 170,000 jobs in just the first two years.
But two decades later, it’s left us with nothing more than a net loss of over one million US jobs, a trade deficit of $177 billion with NAFTA countries and a 12.2 percent decline in middle class wages.
And let’s not forget the deregulation of Wall Street, which started under Reagan and reached its peak when Bill Clinton repealed the Glass-Steagall Act. This led directly to the crash of 2008, the loss of over 8 million jobs and the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
So, the next time one of your Republican friends talks about how great deregulation is, remind them of all the damage it’s caused this country over the years.
And while you’re at it, remind them of all the jobs smart, well-thought-out regulations have created.