Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Op-Ed Contributor: Ralph Nader: Trump’s Anti-Consumer Agenda Hurts His Voters

Google+ Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr

At the Food and Drug Administration, Mr. Trump has installed Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former pharmaceutical industry consultant, who supports weakening drug and medical device safety standards and has shown no real commitment to reducing sky-high drug prices. At the Department of Education, Betsy DeVos, a billionaire investor in for-profit colleges, has weakened enforcement policy on that predatory industry, hiring industry insiders and abandoning protections for students and taxpayers.

Mr. Pruitt, as the attorney general of Oklahoma, filed suits against the E.P.A. He has hired former lobbyists for the fossil fuel and chemical industries. Mr. Trump’s aides and Republicans in Congress are pushing to restrict access to state courts by plaintiffs who seek to hold polluters accountable.

The administration is even threatening to dismantle the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and fire its director, Richard Cordray, who was installed after Wall Street’s 2008 crash. Their sins: They returned over $12 billion to defrauded consumers and plan to issue regulations dealing with payday debt traps and compulsory arbitration clauses that deny aggrieved consumers their day in court. (The Senate is now considering legislation to gut the arbitration rule.)

Draconian budget cuts, new restrictions on health insurance, diminished privacy protections and denying climate change while putting off fuel-efficiency deadlines and auto safety standards will hurt all Americans, including Mr. Trump’s most die-hard supporters.

Mr. Trump’s deregulation crowd argues that they are freeing markets to grow. But preventing casualties and protecting consumers are, in fact, good for the economy. Nicholas Ashford, a professor of technology at M.I.T., has shown how safety regulation has fostered innovation. Markets grow in humane and efficient ways when workers make airbags, products to detect contaminants in food and water, and recycling equipment. Fraud prosecutions leave consumers with more money, generating sales, jobs and a higher standard of living.

When courts grant compensation for wrongful injuries, they not only help victims pay their bills but also lessen the burden on public insurance programs like Medicare. Fuel-efficiency standards save consumers money, improve air quality and reduce dependence on foreign oil. The Department of Energy itself says that over five years, a 30-m.p.g. vehicle will save $3,125 if driven 15,000 miles annually.

Mr. Trump’s regulatory abolitionists should know they will face litigation. In the 1980s, the Reagan administration’s repeal of the rule requiring airbags in cars was challenged by the insurance industry and consumer groups. The Supreme Court unanimously required the rule to be reinstated. Labor, consumer and environmental groups are mobilizing to fight efforts to sap health and safety protections. Citizens are rediscovering the benefits of focusing on members of Congress at town halls and other gatherings.

Smashing safety and consumer safeguards will lead to deaths, injuries and diseases that provoke intense news coverage. Demands to hold the profit-obsessed Trump team accountable for conflicts of interest will intensify. And civil servants, blocked from enforcing laws, will respect established procedures or become whistle-blowers, with legal protections.

The administration’s corrosive polices should be a clarion call to Democrats not to mimic Republicans in pursuing special interest campaign dollars and instead devise a powerful consumer protection message for voters left, right and center — voters who can be injured or defrauded regardless of their political views.

Championing a consumer agenda should be a good way to win elections.

Continue reading the main story

Wendy Pettit

Wendy Pettit is a writer for NYT and writes for other publications on her spare time. She lives in Chicago with her husband and her dog Zuko.

Write A Comment

%d bloggers like this: