Trump executive order directs all agencies to gut business regulations amid COVID-19: 'The corruption is on full display'

Trump executive order directs all agencies to gut business regulations amid COVID-19: 'The corruption is on full display'
President Donald J. Trump arrives in the House chamber and is greeted by members of Congress prior to delivering his State of the Union address Tuesday, Feb. 4, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

In a move watchdog groups decried as an effort to reward big corporations at the expense of public health and safety, President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed an executive order directing the heads of every federal agency to "waive, suspend, and eliminate" all regulations that they consider unnecessary obstacles to economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis.

"And we want to leave it that way," Trump said during a press briefing, indicating he would like to make the sweeping deregulation permanent. The president's order could have enormous implications for workplace safety rules, environmental and labor policy, consumer protections, food and drug regulations, and more.

Robert Weissman, president Public Citizen, said the executive order shows that "instead of real, direct help for the tens of millions of Americans struggling financially due to the pandemic, or a real plan to reopen the economy safely based on the best public health expertise, Trump wants to keep giving handouts to corporate interests."

"Trump's corporate-friendly executive order aimed at rolling back even more regulations that protect the public is just the latest sign that his solution to the pandemic is the opposite of what the public needs," said Weissman. "The corruption of this administration is on full display as it uses this crisis as an excuse to further its corporate agenda while distracting the public from its utter failure to fight the virus."

Trump's deregulatory push amid the Covid-19 pandemic is a continuation of his administration's policy of hacking away at as many restrictions on big business as possible prior to the crisis.

As Common Dreams reported, Trump's Environmental Protection Agency has already used the coronavirus pandemic to suspend reporting rules and other requirements for the fossil fuel industry, which green groups warned gives oil companies "a green light" to pollute the nation's air and water with impunity.

The president's executive order instructs agency heads to "determine which, if any, [deregulatory actions] would promote economic recovery if made permanent," giving the EPA and other agencies the go-ahead to indefinitely lift regulations on big polluters and other corporations.

"Remember when the EPA got all 'how dare you' about anyone saying their rollbacks were permanent? Well, now there's an executive order that makes them so," tweeted climate journalist Amy Westervelt. "There will be many, many more. Oil and gas royalties? Bye. Restrictions on offshore drilling? Buh-bye. This is unbelievably bad, reckless, and a complete fuck-you to democracy."

While Trump presented his administration's sweeping assault on regulations as an attempt to accelerate economic recovery from the coronavirus emergency, economists have disputed the longstanding right-wing notion that deregulation necessarily boosts activity and growth.

"This sounds exactly like the type of opportunistic political move that absolutely should not be attempted right now," Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, told the Washington Post last month. "Correlations between regulations and economic activity are far shakier than they assume, and I don't believe this idea will help at all."

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