Trump should support reasonable federal regulations, not crony capitalism

By on December 28, 2016 with 2 Comments

Yesterday, I got a lift to the Portland (Oregon) airport, took a cross-country flight to National Airport, and jumped in a cab to head home, hugging my dog and scratching my cat’s head for a good long time after walking through the door. Long-distance travel is a matter of routine for many of us now, but if I think about it, it’s still remarkable that you can wake up on the west coast and get to the east coast before the sun sets. I’ve been doing it for 30 years, and knock on wood, I’ve never had a major safety incident.

I got a lift to the airport, in a vehicle much more fuel efficient than when I first started driving more than three decades ago. I buckled up because it’s the law and also because it’s the smart thing to do. I felt all the safer that we and all the other drivers on the road observed government-imposed speed limits. Here, too, the data remind us that accident rates spike with increased speeds.

The pilots and ground crew working on my flight home, as a matter of routine for them, went through a series of checks before getting cleared to fly, and air traffic controllers gave them the go-ahead to get that bird in the air. With a tail wind, we were moving at 600 miles per hour. No need for speed limits at 30,000 feet and only open skies ahead.

In our country, an extraordinary record of airline safety has been achieved, and it’s become an expectation in society. It’s been achieved because individual people perform their tasks and jobs with precision, because the airlines and the other businesses that serve the customers commit themselves to quality control and high standards of safety, and because government imposes standards that place checks on the actions of private businesses. Indeed, the Federal Aviation Administration is a big part of the explanation for the safety outcomes, and it enforces legal standards when it comes to airline safety.

I was thinking about these government regulations and rules – local, state, and federal – because there is so much talk of federal regulatory reform in the news. The incoming president says he’s going to freeze many new regulations, and roll back many existing ones. For every new regulation, he says, he wants two rolled back. Members of the House and Senate majorities are talking about invoking the Congressional Review Act, which allows some second-term Obama Administration regulations to be overturned with simple majorities in each chamber of Congress. And Congress is likely to take up the REINS Act early next month, which would require congressional approval of all “major” regulations – complicating the already difficult path for the final adoption of regulations.

Many of Donald Trump’s nominees are echoing the thoughts of the president-elect, as you’d expect. One of them, Scott Pruitt, a dedicated opponent of the Environmental Protection Agency and a guy who used the agency as a whipping post in his stump speeches, has been tapped to run the agency. How does that happen? An anti-environmentalist running the EPA is like having a well-known computer hacker run the Department of Homeland Security. It’s a square peg in a round hole.

To my many friends who despise federal regulations, I say, yes, there are plenty of times the government overreaches. Bureaucracy is a real thing, and it can slow down private business and a wide range of government services. There’s also the matter of government subsidies. I’ve written many times how the government stacks the deck against the people and their businesses by doling out money or favors to private business, disrupting markets in the process On this blog, I’ve written about how the agribusiness industry gets all manner of government favors – with price supports, crop subsidies, predator control services, reduced grazing fees, government buy-up programs for surplus products, government-financed staff support and promotions through check-off programs, trade promotion, and so much more. I know how hard so many people involved with agriculture work, but you cannot claim undying loyalty to the free market, fight reasonable regulations, express hatred toward the government, and then take advantage of this extraordinary matrix of government support programs. That’s not a coherent ideology, but just blatant opportunism.

It’s hardly just agribusiness. The wildlife management industry gets an enormous infusion of tax dollars — millions a year – from the states and the federal government. So much of it comes from a tax on gun owners, who often unwittingly see their dollars directed to support sport hunting programs, even though the vast majority of gun owners have no interest in sport hunting and many dislike it.

Mind you, The HSUS and so many other animal protection groups are private. We get no subsidies. We exist because people make voluntary contributions to our work. That said, like all other charities, we benefit from Internal Revenue Service rules that allows for charitable deductions. That’s mighty important to the working of more than a million charities in the United States, which collectively provide 10 percent of all jobs in the American workforce.

But let’s probe this anti-regulatory rhetoric further. While there are legitimate arguments to be made about over-regulation and crony capitalism, there’s also very little argument about the value of having so many regulations in our society. And that’s true when it comes to animals, who are vulnerable to people who would exploit them solely for profit or recreation. When the Obama Administration says that horse show trainers shouldn’t torture horses by intentionally injuring their feet – a practice known as “soring” — that’s a regulation. When the U.S. Department of Agriculture says that the term “organic” should mean that animals are not confined in small cages or mutilated as a routine husbandry practice, that’s a regulation. When the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service bans the aerial scouting and shooting of wolves or trapping of grizzly bears on National Wildlife Refuges — yes, on places called refuges – that’s a regulation.

What decent person wouldn’t agree with these things? Perhaps the people perpetrating these acts, or the politicians beholden to them.

It’s a regulation to have car manufacturers build automobiles with greater fuel efficiency so we are not so dependent on foreign oil, and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to protect the planet. It’s a regulation to have anti-salmonella standards and humane slaughter standards for the food we eat, so we don’t die when we eat or animals don’t needlessly suffer.

We live in a society that observes standards of regulated capitalism. We never had a purely free market. It’s an American value for business to operate with tremendous freedom and latitude, but businesses must also be subject to reasonable standards, which are derivative of the laws made by the people directly or through their elected representatives. Minimum wages, occupational safety, limits on the number of hours worked in a week, no child labor, and the like are results of this interplay. These are all accepted values in our society, and we may debate about the size of the minimum wage or the safety standards in the workplace, but no sane person today debates whether we should have these standards at all.

So, yes, from me and others at The HSUS, you’ll hear about government waste and overreach, usually when government pampers special interests. But you’ll also hear how government must protect us from special interests and other actors who might harm the public, the environment, or animals in selfish pursuits. In government, and through the pressure applied to government, we seek to find that sweet spot – where private industry can flourish and create jobs and wealth, but also to protect those of us who eat, drink, and breathe, and who want to see the other tenets of a civil society embodied in the law.

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Opposition, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative)

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2 Comments

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  1. haustete says:

    continue, we hare with you and proud of you

  2. Ma'iingan Ototeman says:

    There’s an adjective used above,, decent.
    While relative ethics and in-group morality are as far as humans seem able to consider valid and to perceive at all, I’d like to contrast a more noncommittal term with the failures such terms evoke:

    To think, according to the dictionary definition, no longer appears to primarily mean:
    2. Direct one’s mind toward someone or something; use one’s mind actively to form connected ideas.

    but instead refers nearly exclusively:
    1. Have a particular opinion, belief, or idea about someone or something.

    Concerned with the emotions, cognitions and behaviors of all animals, including the human, I have also been caught up by the arrogance and solipsism of our kind over policies and governance, which may have always been vituperative and exclusively involved with coalition to achieve status, as are many other social primates.

    We privately largely seem decent, when dealing with those we regard as members of our ingroups, even while nearly constantly evaluating all others as probable defectors.

    When Mr. Pacelle uses decency, he appears to be referring to a nonjudgmental ingrouping relationship with other organisms, a more difficult position for a highly fearful primate to attain than what seems to be the default.

    Here is where his perceptions differ from that of most of the voting public. At present the coalitions of those who desire removal of regulation upon their own specific activities are ascendant.
    Even those who are purported to have lost, still desire the same ingroup ascendance, with no limits on immigration of other humans into an already severely fragmented remnant natural ecosystem, once highly interconnected.
    There is no term between ecosystem and biosphere, but interconnections – safe or permeable passages – are necessary for the full functioning and persistence of species.

    For those who do not believe, I merely point out the ways a dandelion seed abscisses: Wind tends to source from cold, advancing glacier katabatics push seeds south, and, conversely, warming north with rising air, attracts seeds, drawing wind.
    Many other invisible adaptations exist (explore abscission to more fully understand ) including contingent individual survival.

    That immigration from saturated or inimical environments toward those chancing or perceived as more hospitable, is a natural event; even the development of fins, wings, legs, illustrate how animals adapt, able to emigrate.

    So, what restraints cannot be overcome, what regulatory forces are accepted? None, in reality, by humans.
    Medical science engineering are constantly aimed at ALL regulation; even imaginary colonization of areas beyond the earth none can live without are rallying points for humans.

    I have often pointed out that we do not differ in the least from other organisms, and it is upon immense reams of such evidence as the above, along with behaviors of the entire spectrum of biological life, I base this assertion.

    Decency arises in some of the traditional teaching tales, from Siberia to Ohio Oneida: I often repeat the Siberian story about the animals, the unthinking humans, the emissary, and you will certainly remember the famous tale ascribed to the Oneida, “Who Speaks For Wolf?”
    Such cautionary moral tales, while attempting to evaluate other kinds as worthy of consideration (I would say equal in validity, but will always roundly be booed out of any human social group for it), probably really arise only after the discovery of devastation and death sufficient to cause lack of resource for the human societies that have come to form around such reevaluation.

    It is always among the first mores abandoned, though.

    It is asserted that about 11% of voters claim their choices to be inspired by environmental concern, with a far smaller percentage claiming motivation as compassion for native animals and natural systems. Environment, you see, merely means local habitat, and beyond a certain tiny number, humans tend to colonize/exploit all others, all else in an individually-prioritized fashion.
    We do not form truly decent societies, and those nearest known relatively decent cultures will always have had limited reproduction.
    For as Darwin and Malthus showed, reproduction must be greater than mortality for persistence, and all desire persistence.

    So we develop factions and intractable dispute.

    E. O. Wilson, one of the developers of island biogeography also later asserted that humans in order to avoid the mass extinguishing of other life on earth, perhaps culminating even in that of the solipsistic, should attempt individually to develop biophilia instead of anthropophilia. His views remain anthropocentric in values, and I can only skim his more recent work, not sharing this -centrism.

    More personally as well as intermittently professionally involved in interacting with our more distant relatives, from redwood forests to tropical and high-elevation creatures, I recently visited a local HS shelter.
    There I played with some abandoned dogs, each filled with the exuberance of life, each eager to play with me. I had to myself reject the easy adoption, knowing that they could not survive the natural world which remains my preferred habitat, as most larger organisms like, bears, coyotes, eagles, wolves, and other organisms, would make lunch or accident of them should I sleep or allow them the freedom which they all seek to experience.

    Thus I had the choice either to invade carrying preferential prejudice the shrinking homes of others, which I have always shared inoffensively as possible, or more or less decently, depending upon one’s personal biases, not assume the responsibility of an acquired social companion.

    Once a tragically captive-born wolf sought my bond. Because he would have lived such a damaged, limited life, I accepted this bond, illegally allowing him full freedom and responsibility in our travels (for this is what a wolf demands, never having been bred to remain dependent), only restraining him at all just sufficiently for his survival when we necessarily were visible in human-controlled areas. We lived as equals, although in a covert manner due to the complete flooding of his continent, his world by a particularly nasty species.

    You see, neither he nor I could morally accept the exclusionary self-interest of that excessively controlling species.

    I am profoundly happy that he did live, learn, and thrive, even while I feel still the deep tragedy of his being unable to live among his own kind, safe from the excessive human interference and solipsism in which nearly all partake.

    He was decent, licking a crying fawn, until is calmed and quieted, before taking what was necessary, acting in accord with his vital ecological niche. Yet, I can only tell such vignettes anonymously, as decency among humans seems to refer to whatever the human prefers.

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