Political Animal


October 01, 2011 10:05 AM The regulations the GOP has in mind

By Steve Benen

When it comes to the debate over the economy, the Republican message has become extremely narrow. With President Obama already having cut taxes more than Bush/Cheney did, and the deal last December keeping Bush-era rates in place for everyone, it’s tougher for the right to blame taxes — so they’re sticking to blaming “regulations.”

Part of the problem, of course, is that the conservative argument has no meaningful foundation in reality. Paul Krugman’s column yesterday is well worth reading.

The starting point for many claims that antibusiness policies are hurting the economy is the assertion that the sluggishness of the economy’s recovery from recession is unprecedented. But, as a new paper by Lawrence Mishel of the Economic Policy Institute documents at length, this is just not true. Extended periods of “jobless recovery” after recessions have been the rule for the past two decades. Indeed, private-sector job growth since the 2007-2009 recession has been better than it was after the 2001 recession. […]

The truth is that we’re in this mess because we had too little regulation, not too much. And now one of our two major parties is determined to double down on the mistakes that caused the disaster.

The other part, though, is considering what Republicans mean, specifically, when they target regulations. There are all kinds of safeguards, rules, and protections that might fall under the “regulatory” umbrella. GOP officials may find it easy to paint with a broad brush, but some of the measures Republicans would like to scrap are well worth keeping around.

Take the newest Republican budget plan, for example.

In addition to blocking President Obama’s health care law and slashing funding for job training, the budget plan presented by House Republicans for health and labor programs this week would scuttle several worker safety protections put forth by the Department of Labor.

Among other anti-regulatory measures, the budget would block the department from moving forward with its Injury and Illness Prevention Program, which would require employers to develop written plans to address workplace hazards and reduce worker injuries. Under the Republican plan, no Labor Department funding could be devoted toward the program.

The budget also takes aim at an obscure but notable Labor Department rule intended to reduce the death and maiming of construction workers who labor on rooftops. The department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration had planned to ramp up the enforcement of harness rules for roofers working on residential construction sites, but the Republican plan forbids the agency from doing so, as noted by the public-health blog The Pump Handle.

Another OSHA rule gutted by the bill relates to repetitive-motion injuries. The agency has been developing a rule that will require employers to check a box on agency forms in cases where workers have developed musculoskeletal disorders. Although the rule costs practically nothing and goes primarily toward data collection, the Republican budget forbids it from moving forward.

Obviously this is a reminder of Republicans opposing worker rights and protections — that’s hardly new — but it’s also a reminder about the nonsensical underpinnings of the GOP’s economic agenda.

What, in Republican lawmakers’ eyes, will boost the economy? Workplaces in which Americans are more likely to be injured. That’s the plan.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • c u n d gulag on October 01, 2011 10:21 AM:

    You've all heard of OSHA?

    Well, the Republicans want to replace it with ROSHAA:
    "Republicans Oppose Safety and Health Acts. Always."

    OSHA - let it work for you.

    ROSHAA - let it work you over.

  • walt on October 01, 2011 10:24 AM:

    It's quite literally true: Republicans don't care if you live or die. Only that rich people get richer.

    The Republican Party will get its own chapter when the history of sociopathy is written.

  • AndThenThere'sThat on October 01, 2011 10:41 AM:

    The GOP regulatory slashes you mention aren't earth shattering. In fact, that's what I find most striking about the modern day GOP approach. We have a world teetering on the abyss of another recession and the GOP's BigPlan™ is, amongst other things, cancelling roofing harnesses and data collection. I guess the business of looting of the treasury is getting down to crumb picking.

  • bigtuna on October 01, 2011 11:03 AM:

    I work in the oil and gas realm, and a little secret -- the number of wells being drilled in the US of A has been steadily increasing since 2008, and one of the reasons oil and gas cos. are focusing efforts in the US and Canada is ....... relative regulatory and monetary certainty, at least with respect to many other oil producing nations. If one digs deeply enough, you can find this in 10-k and annual reports.

    tee hee

  • Danp on October 01, 2011 11:03 AM:

    And let's not forget the Republican insistence that it be more difficult for sue employers, sue in class action, or collect punitive awards.

  • golack on October 01, 2011 11:09 AM:

    Don't worry, I'm sure they'll block paying out worker's comp too (just to add to Danp's comments)

  • Old Uncle Dave on October 01, 2011 11:46 AM:

    This is the republican plan to reduce unemployment. Let workers die to create job openings.

  • Anonymous on October 01, 2011 12:05 PM:

    Republicans have a pattern of gutting regulations that protect the American people, whether it's in the workplace, finances, air & water safety, drug safety, food safety, you name it. They gut regulations either by new law or by not funding new or existing law. They need to be called on the carpet for it. Again and again, so that even those who watch FAUX or just plain don't pay attention might get a clue.

  • jjm on October 01, 2011 12:58 PM:

    @Old Uncle Dave: you are giving Alan Grayson a run for his money with that bon mot!

    Seriously, the EPA is THE most popular government agency.

    I just do not see how always predictably playing the villain gives the GOP some kind of 'edge' politically.

    It can only be that the GOP voters are sadists and / or masochists.

    In either event, they do not have normal psychology.

    NB: Fox's Gretchen Carlson today said that Obama is 'soft on terror' and that only torture works against terrorists. Now, flying in the face of reality is the rule for Fox, but I started thinking what it really means that they would pound of this ridiculous theme.

    It occurred to me: their audience are masochists and/or sadists. Obama, a reasonable and very non-violent type, lacks the coldness and cruelty necessary to give them their sexual thrills.

  • efgoldman on October 01, 2011 1:31 PM:

    This is the republican plan to reduce unemployment. Let workers die to create job openings.
    Hey, wasn't it Rushbo who said some years ago, that we should encourage people to smoke because they would die earlier and keep medicare and retirement costs down?

  • Roddy McCorley on October 01, 2011 2:26 PM:

    Workplaces in which Americans are more likely to be injured. That’s the plan.

    Not the plan, so much as something that isn't worthy of their consideration. The plan is to disabuse ordinary citizens of the silly, silly notion that government has any part to play in making the tiniest portion of their lives better.

  • President Lindsay on October 01, 2011 3:11 PM:

    Re. the harness regulations for construction workers on roofs on residences. I've done construction like this and I can't imagine how having to deal with a harness would be anything but a nightmare. You're constantly having to move things around (shingles, tiles, wood, not to mention pneumatic hoses for nail guns, which are a pain themselves). Having a harness tied onto you and getting in the way all the time would be really a hassle.

    Of course falling off the roof is more than a hassle. I wonder if there wouldn't be some sort of passive system that could be used instead, like an inflatable thing on the ground that could be laid under the roofline. It could operate with a fan to keep it filled. It would be a one-time investment by any company that does roofing work, and would avoid the inevitable problem of workers unhooking their harnesses, which would happen all the time. Just a thought...