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Aug. 19, 2019 by Thomas McGarity

President Trump's Call for 'Red Flag' Laws Is a Hypocritical Distraction

In response to this month's mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, President Donald Trump urged legislators to enact "red flag" laws to prevent future tragedies. Red flag laws allow police or family members to seek court orders (sometimes called "extreme risk protection orders") that temporarily remove firearms from individuals who present a danger to themselves or others. But do these laws and regulations distract from the larger point about gun violence and mass shootings in the United States?

Trump urged lawmakers to "make sure that those judged to pose a grave risk to public safety do not have access to firearms and that if they do those firearms can be taken through rapid due process." On first hearing, this sounds like a call for the government to protect the public from potentially dangerous individuals. But don't be deceived. The president doesn't really want even that modest degree of protection.

In December 2016, the Social Security Administration (SSA) issued an internal management regulation that directed its staff to submit records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) of Social Security recipients who were not allowed to possess guns because of severe mental illness. The NICS …

April 29, 2019 by Thomas McGarity, Katie Tracy
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Although Workers' Memorial Day was officially April 28, the time has not passed for remembering the thousands of friends, family members, and neighbors whose lives were tragically cut short due to fatal on-the-job incidents this past year. We carry on their memories as we renew the fight for healthy and safe working conditions.

On average, 5,320 workers die on the job every year. In 2017, the latest year for which data is available, the death toll was 5,147. These figures do not account for the estimated 50,000 workers who succumbed to occupational diseases caused by chronic exposures to toxic chemicals and other harmful substances they encountered in their workplaces.

Every day across the nation, salon workers are exposed to toxic chemicals like toluene and formaldehyde in nail polish and hair dyes, construction workers inhale asbestos during home renovations and silica during sandblasting, and janitorial …

July 30, 2018 by Thomas McGarity
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This commentary was originally published by The American Prospect. 

Most of us take for granted the federal regulations that make our air cleaner, our drinking water purer, our food, highways, and workplaces safer, and our economic transactions less vulnerable to fraud and abuse. And few of us realize the extent to which those protections are subject to reversal by federal courts applying legal principles prescribed by the Supreme Court. If confirmed to the Supreme Court, Judge Brett Kavanaugh would be a fervent vote against even well-established forms of regulation.

A telling example of Kavanaugh’s ideological aversion to even minimal government regulation is his dissent in a case in which the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fined SeaWorld of Florida following a tragic incident at its Orlando facility in which a killer whale named Tilikum pulled a trainer off a platform and held her underwater until …

July 13, 2017 by Thomas McGarity
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Earlier this week, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) took decisive action to protect hardworking people who are cheated by banks or other financial institutions. Specifically, the federal agency issued a rule limiting what are known as "forced arbitration" agreements in the contracts we must all sign when we open a bank account or purchase certain kinds of financial products and services. Last year, scholars and staff at the Center for Progressive Reform authored a report that supported CFPB's efforts and asked the agency to adopt an even stronger set of protections for consumers. Although the agency did not adopt the stronger provisions, the final rule nevertheless offers crucial protections for American consumers. We are therefore concerned about the rule's ultimate fate in the courts and in Congress. 

Unbeknownst to most Americans, nearly all financial contracts include a clause that requires them to enter into …

Nov. 22, 2016 by Thomas McGarity
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We are about to experience a fifth major assault on the health, safety, environmental, and consumer protections that Congress put in place during the 1960s and 1970s, protections that most of us take for granted. And all indications are that this assault will be more intense and more comprehensive than any of the prior assaults on the governmental protections that shield our families and communities from the ravages of an unfettered free market. 

In my 2013 book, Freedom to Harm, I documented the first four assaults on federal regulatory protections by a dedicated group of trade associations, corporate lobbyists, think tanks, conservative foundations, and activist groups who were determined to return the American political economy to the laissez-faire benchmark of the late 19th century Gilded Age. 

The First Assault began during the last two years of the Carter administration and lasted well into the Reagan administration. Because …

Jan. 13, 2016 by Thomas McGarity
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President Obama devoted his final state-of-the-union speech to highlighting his administration’s considerable accomplishments, and, more importantly, to articulating a surprisingly robust progressive vision for the future.

And that vision properly included a large role for federal regulation. 

Noting that “reckless Wall Street,” not food stamp recipients, caused the financial meltdown of 2008-09, the President predicted, “working families won’t get more opportunity or bigger paychecks by letting big banks or big oil or hedge funds make their own rules at the expense of everyone else.” 

The obvious corollary is that the federal government must maintain a strong regulatory system to prevent companies from imposing risks to the financial and physical health of the American people and to their shared environment. We must therefore design and maintain a regulatory system that is impervious to capture by the companies that it is designed to regulate.

The President did …

Oct. 1, 2015 by Thomas McGarity
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The new primary ozone standard of 70 parts per billion (ppb) is definitely a step in the right direction, but it has taken EPA far too long to make this much-needed change.

We should not forget, however, that EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson sent a proposed standard of 65 ppb to the White House in August 2011, but was told explicitly by President Obama to withdraw it because the White House economists thought it would be too costly for business, despite the fact that this delay came at the expense of the health of vulnerable Americans.

The Supreme Court has held that the Clean Air Act prohibits EPA from taking such cost considerations into account when setting the standards, but that does not stop affected industries from railing against any protections the agency promulgates to protect public health.

We can expect the regulated industries to complain that a …

Sept. 14, 2015 by Thomas McGarity
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At long last, the Food and Drug Administration has promulgated two critical regulations implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011 (FSMA).  The regulations flesh out the statute’s requirements for facilities that process human food and animal feed.  Of the regulations that FDA has proposed in order to implement the FSMA, these are perhaps the least controversial.  Indeed, they have won praise from everyone from the Grocery Manufacturers Association to the food safety director of the Pew Charitable Trusts.  This blog post focuses exclusively on the regulations governing human food. 

The regulations require all processors of human food to prepare and maintain plans for ensuring that their products are not contaminated with pathogens.  A processing facility must conduct a hazard analysis and institute preventive controls to mitigate the hazards identified in the analysis.  The company must monitor those controls, conduct verification activities to ensure that the …

Aug. 26, 2015 by Thomas McGarity
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In Albert O. Hirschman’s brilliant analysis of conservative responses to progressive social programs entitled The Rhetoric of Reaction, he identifies and critiques three reactionary narratives that conservatives use to critique governmental programs -- the futility thesis; the jeopardy thesis; and the perversity thesis.

The futility thesis posits that governmental attempts to cure social ills or to correct alleged market imperfections are doomed to fail because the government cannot possibly identify the problem with sufficient clarity, predict the future with sufficient accuracy, and devote resources sufficient to “make a dent” in the problem.

The jeopardy thesis argues that “the cost of the proposed change or reform is too high as it endangers some previous, precious accomplishment.” The jeopardy thesis thus subjects governmental interventions to a cost-benefit analysis and finds them wanting because the gains to the beneficiaries never exceed the costs to society of putting existing social arrangements …

June 30, 2015 by Thomas McGarity
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Yesterday, the Supreme Court in Michigan v. EPA threw out EPA’s regulations protecting the American public from mercury and other hazardous emissions of power plants.

In another instance of judicial activism by the Roberts court, the majority refused to defer to EPA’s decision to ignore costs in deciding whether to regulate power plant emissions.

The decision turned on the meaning of the word “appropriate” in a section of the Clean Air Act that addressed hazardous air pollutant (HAP) emissions from fossil fuel-fired power plants. Before EPA subjected HAPs emissions from power plants to stringent technology-based regulations, it had to decide whether regulating those emissions was “appropriate and necessary,” given the other controls that the statute imposed on power plants to reduce acid rain.

If EPA made the “appropriate and necessary” finding, the statute required EPA to subdivide power plants into various categories and promulgate emissions …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
Aug. 19, 2019

President Trump's Call for 'Red Flag' Laws Is a Hypocritical Distraction

April 29, 2019

Honor Fallen Workers by Protecting the Living from Dangerous Workplace Chemicals

July 30, 2018

American Prospect Commentary: Judge Kavanaugh's Deregulatory Agenda

July 13, 2017

With Final Forced Arbitration Rule, the CFPB Continues to Advance the Public Interest

Nov. 22, 2016

The Assault on Our Safeguards

Jan. 13, 2016

President Obama's Progressive Vision for the Future

Oct. 1, 2015

CPR's McGarity Responds to EPA's New Ozone Standard