The Hill Op-ed: Justice Dept's Enforcement Policies Make Change for the Worse

by Rena Steinzor | February 22, 2018

This op-ed originally ran in The Hill.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has wasted little time portraying himself as the prosecutor-in-chief of street — as opposed to white collar — crime, rejecting this month even a broadly bipartisan effort to reduce sentences for nonviolent crime supported by a coalition that spans the Koch brothers and the NAACP.

Civil enforcement has also fallen off, as documented in investigative reporting by The New York Times and others. Both trends will almost certainly continue given the more subtle sabotage of corporate enforcement implemented in a series of largely overlooked policy changes announced by memoranda and speech.

The campaign began last June, when Sessions wrote a memorandum to U.S. attorneys and DOJ senior managers instructing them not to enter into any settlements that provide for a "payment or loan to any non-governmental entity." His targets were the nonprofit groups enlisted to provide counseling of consumers in foreclosure under multi-billion dollar civil settlements with the nation's biggest banks. A small portion of the huge sums collected by these consent decrees was devoted to this grassroots work by legal aid attorneys and homeowner counseling groups.

Bank executives didn't articulate objections to this funding. But retiring House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) claims that such payments amount to a "slush fund" accumulated by the Obama administration to pay off its cronies on the left. The ...

Government and Bureaucracy Play Essential, Fundamental Roles in American Life

by James Goodwin | January 31, 2018
President Trump's first State of the Union address contained numerous outrageous claims and statements, rendering a full dissection and critique practically impossible. Many have already singled out one line of the speech as worthy of particular condemnation, so I'll add mine. Early on, Trump made this statement to the rapturous applause of his conservative allies in Congress: "In America, we know that faith and family, not government and bureaucracy, are the center of American life." This claim is not only ...

What Creates the Cost, Mr. President?

by Matthew Freeman | January 31, 2018
During the State of the Union address last night, no one was surprised to hear President Trump brag about all the work his administration has done slashing regulatory safeguards for health, safety, the environment, and financial security. It’s clearly one of his proudest first-year accomplishments — making us all less safe and more vulnerable to industries that profit by polluting the air and water, creating unsafe working conditions, using underhanded financial practices, or selling dangerous products. The president thinks that ...

Breaking the Law: Many Trump Regulatory Rollbacks and Delays Are Unlawful

by Bill Funk | January 30, 2018
Progressives have rightfully taken issue with the Trump administration's policy goals, from immigration to the environment, from health care to worker safety. Given the president's decidedly unprogressive stances, one should not be surprised at the policy reversals from the prior administration. One might be surprised, however, and dismayed as well, at the cavalier disregard that the administration has shown for the law, both substantive and procedural.  For example, President Trump's earlier executive orders on the "Muslim ban" were overturned not ...

The Congressional Review Act: Trump's First-Year Participation Trophy

by James Goodwin | January 29, 2018
Perhaps because he has so few real accomplishments to his name, President Donald Trump has developed a nasty habit of embellishing his record. From the size of the crowd at his inauguration to the number of floors in Trump Tower, he simply won't let a little thing like "reality" or "facts" or even "cardinal numbers" get in the way of his estimation of his own self-worth. Expect this behavior to be on full display at tomorrow night's State of the ...

Looking Back on a Year of Trump's Regulatory 'Fire and Fury'

by Matt Shudtz | January 26, 2018
Next Tuesday, President Trump will share his view of the state of our union. And if his words correlate with his actions over the last year, the dominant theme will be one of division and disruption. Like no president in recent history, Donald Trump has pushed U.S. residents to cordon ourselves off into dueling tribes whose theories of governance and policymaking diverge and whose basic facts and language are starting to split in disturbing ways. But on whichever side of ...

FERC Rejection of Coal Subsidies Proposal Demonstrates Importance of Independent Agencies

by James Goodwin | January 09, 2018
On January 8, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) struck a resounding blow against the Trump administration's ill-advised agenda to put its thumb on the scale of the energy market by propping up the coal industry, unanimously rejecting a controversial proposal by Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Rick Perry. Perry's plan would have resulted in working families and small businesses subsidizing the coal industry to the tune of hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars. Dozens of energy policy ...

Steinzor: Trump's reform won't stop mass incarceration

by Matthew Freeman | December 21, 2017
"Despite the most extensive bipartisan support in many years for the reform of mass incarceration in the United States, the Trump administration has ignored this enormous problem and focuses solely on greater leniency for white collar criminals." So writes CPR’s Rena Steinzor in her latest op-ed in The Hill. She goes on to describe the circumstances under which the Department of Justice abandoned its prosecution of HSBC, and with it a deferred prosecution agreement that would have settled a “massive criminal ...

Trump's Newspeak

by Matthew Freeman | December 19, 2017
"You don't grasp the beauty of the destruction of words. Do you know that Newspeak is the only language in the world whose vocabulary gets smaller every year?" Winston Smith, 1984 Donald Trump has never been known for the breadth of his vocabulary. In his case, I’ve always assumed that was a marker of a not particularly curious mind. The guy’s openly contemptuous of higher education; he says he doesn’t read books because he gets what he needs to know ...

Weaponizing Wealth: Unjust Redistribution Upward

by Carl Cranor | December 18, 2017
Is the current "tax reform" going through Congress just? Justice is important because even if citizens are treated dissimilarly by institutions, if the differences are just, all have reasonable treatment and the institutions are likely to be socially accepted.  A widely endorsed theory of justice, developed by the philosopher John Rawls nearly 50 years ago, captures how thoroughly unjust the congressional tax plan is. Understanding this and how it weaponizes wealth against most ordinary citizens may explain why so many ...

Reno Gazette-Journal Op-Ed: Don’t Toss Out Cooperation in the West’s Sage Country

by Dan Rohlf | December 12, 2017
This op-ed originally ran in the Reno Gazette-Journal. During the holiday season, many people put significant effort into plans for getting along with one another at family gatherings. Seating plans are carefully strategized and touchy subjects avoided. We’ve learned that enjoying our shared holiday demands that we all compromise a little. Plans for cooperation in managing the vast shrub-steppe plains of the American West – including thousands of acres in Nevada – are no different. A few years ago, conflict ...

More Thoughts on the CFPB Puzzle: President Trump Can Select Someone to Run the CFPB Only if the Senate Has an Opportunity to Confirm

by Nina Mendelson | November 28, 2017
Originally posted at Notice & Comment, a blog of the Yale Journal on Regulation and the American Bar Association Section of Administrative Law & Regulatory Practice. Reprinted with permission. On Friday, November 24, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray named Leandra English, the longtime CFPB Chief of Staff, to the post of Deputy Director. Based on legislation specific to the CFPB, that put her in a position to serve as Acting Director upon his departure. Cordray then resigned. A few ...

An Antidote to Greed

by Matthew Freeman | November 28, 2017
If there's a defining value to the tax bill now working its way through Congress, it's greed. How else to account for a bill that wipes out tax deductions for health care expenses, double-taxes the money you pay in state and local income taxes, eliminates the deduction for interest on student loans, and at the same time eliminates the tax that's now paid on estates in excess of $5.5 million, eliminates the alternative minimum tax, and slashes corporate taxes, all ...

How Tax 'Reform' Impacts the Bay -- and Everything Else

by Evan Isaacson | November 17, 2017
Everyone should be paying attention to the tax "reform" bills making their way through Congress. Whether you are a concerned citizen, a volunteer activist, or a career advocate, chances are the tax legislation will do much more than increase or lower your tax bill. Much of the mainstream media and financial press, along with some public finance scholars and think tanks, are doing a thorough job of explaining what the tax bills will mean for the rich and the middle ...

CPR Launches New Database on State Prosecutions of Crimes against Workers

by Katie Tracy | October 30, 2017
Too often, workplace injuries and deaths result from company policies and practices that encourage and reward unacceptably risky behavior under the false pretense that cutting corners is standard practice and no one will get hurt. As a result, an average of 13 Americans are killed on the job every day, and many more are seriously injured.  In many cases, these tragedies and the grave pain they impose on the victims' families, friends, and communities are preventable with basic safety measures. ...

At House Oversight Hearing, A Call for Trump to Abandon the Pillars of His Assault on Safeguards

by James Goodwin | October 24, 2017
Today, I will testify before two subcommittees of the House Oversight Committee at a hearing that I hope will provide a critical examination of the Trump administration's so-called "Regulatory Reform Task Forces." Created by Trump's Executive Order 13777, these task forces are essentially designed to be "hit squads" embedded at each agency with the goal of carrying out the Trump administration's assault on public safeguards from within. In my testimony, I provide a comprehensive critique of the task forces, as ...

Trump to America's Most Vulnerable Communities: You're on Your Own

by James Goodwin | September 28, 2017
UPDATE: President Trump is no longer scheduled to speak on deregulation on October 2, but the planned deregulatory "summit" with various cabinet-level agencies is still slated to occur. Government-sanctioned cruelty makes for shocking images, as the events of the past few weeks demonstrate. People in wheelchairs forcibly dragged from congressional hearing rooms for protesting legislative attempts to strip them of access to affordable health care. The uncertainty on the faces of Puerto Rican parents as they survey the damage to ...

At House Judiciary Hearing, CPR's Steinzor to Call for Repeal of Congressional Review Act

by James Goodwin | September 27, 2017
Tomorrow, CPR Member Scholar Rena Steinzor is scheduled to appear before the Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law of the House Judiciary Committee to testify at a hearing focused on the Congressional Review Act (CRA). The CRA is a controversial law that has been aggressively used this past year by the majority in Congress and the Trump administration to repeal 14 regulatory safeguards that would have protected consumers, workers, and our environment. In her testimony, Steinzor makes the ...

Good Government

For democratic government to function properly, the people need to know what their government is doing in their name. That demands both transparency and honesty from government officials and agencies. In recent years, however, some in government have worked to shield their work from public inspection, and not just where national security is concerned.

Steinzor: Trump's reform won't stop mass incarceration

Freeman | Dec 21, 2017 | Good Government

Trump's Newspeak

Freeman | Dec 19, 2017 | Good Government

Weaponizing Wealth: Unjust Redistribution Upward

Cranor | Dec 18, 2017 | Good Government

An Antidote to Greed

Freeman | Nov 28, 2017 | Good Government

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