Government by 10,000 Cuts
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Government by 10,000 Cuts

It’s Not Just the Republicans’ Big Policies that Hurt People, It’s the All of the Smaller Ones that Add Up

If you follow the news you see headlines about the latest ways that GOP policies hurt people, but what you don’t see are the 10,000 other ways already woven into the system. That means that the damage from bad policies is much worse than we are aware of, and the opportunities for improvement, with the right people in office, are greater than we appreciate.

You’ll see news about how the GOP “tax cut” becomes a tax increase as soon as next year, particularly on the lowest incomes, but you may not be aware of other kinds of ongoing damage. For instance, there has been little enforcement of redlining (the pattern of banks denying appropriate mortgages to people or neighborhoods they don’t like) which continues to be a big problem. Things like that only get covered occasionally when some small outlet does an investigative report, like this one. Or you’ll see news of Ryan Zinke reducing the size of Bears Ears National Monument, but unless you’re a regular reader here you probably missed items like this one about how some industries will continue to be exempt from protecting their workers when exposing them to compounds that have long been known to cause high rates of horrible lung cancer.

Those 10,000 ways that policy leans against people add up and go mostly unnoticed. They are the endless list of little laws and policies that have accumulated over many years. Laws and rules pushed by influential interests, and which are rarely reversed since, when people-oriented elected officials do have the votes to make some changes, they tend to focus on the big items, like getting Obamacare passed, or updating who can be denied overtime by categorizing them as salaried.

The list is endless:

  • The additional illnesses created by a loophole in truck pollution standards.
  • Big franchise corporations escaping responsibility for wrongs to employees in their franchises.
  • Those same corporations allowed to have “no poaching” clauses that prevent one franchise from hiring any applicants who already work for another franchise of the same brand.
  • When banks get caught abusing customers and have to pay them back, there’s little enforcement to see if they followed through.
  • When they are caught laundering money for criminals, they aren’t sent to jail.
  • There are forced arbitration clauses for employees which inhibit their pursuit of sexual harassment claims.
  • Poor enforcement of corporate tax rules which has meant they haven’t just been avoiding a lot of tax, as is known, but that even what they do pay has been getting to be less and less, even before the big GOP corporate tax cut. The loose anti-trust decisions that allow industry leaders to dominate a region, meaning local would-be employees are effectively dealing with a monopoly for employment in their field.
  • Oil and gas drillers and coal mine operators have long been given easy ways to avoid costly cleanups, leaving taxpayers holding the bag.
  • Lack of enforcement of abusive employment policies has turned some good blue-collar industries into minimum wage jobs, some even losing money in the bargain. That includes what used to be cab drivers who are now Uber drivers, and truck drivers. Both used to be good jobs but now are contract arrangements sticking the worker with all of the maintenance and other expenses that leave them little gain for their work.

The list could go on for many pages. An encyclopedia’s worth. The total cost to citizens is huge. That means that if the right elected officials were in place, ones set on reversing as much of this as they could, the ground to be gained is likewise huge. Any candidate or party that can get that message across—how big the stakes are, how much ground could be gained—and shows a commitment to do that, would likewise have a huge advantage come election time.

Tom Cantlon has the interesting challenge of being a left-leaning writer for the paper in a small, right-leaning Western town, in a right-leaning state. He can be reached at comments at TomCantlon.com.

 

March 16, 2018