“You’ve Been Telling Lies So Long”
- Demagoguery Anyone?
As the Steppenwolf song says, “You’ve been telling lies so long, some believe they’re true.” In regard to job-killing regulations, Republican members of Congress and Republican presidential candidates exemplify the worst sense of this line.
Not only do the regulations of which the Republicans so loudly complain fail to kill jobs, the absence of these regulations would often lead directly to killing people. In old economics textbooks, the term external economies was used to describe money not spent to contain the pollutants businesses dumped into rivers, released into the air, or threw on the ground. As environmental awareness grew these savings opportunities were gradually precluded and enterprises began to pay the costs they had previously shoved onto others. What the Republicans persistently ignore and passionately strive to obscure are the benefits produced by these regulatory efforts.
For example in 2010 the Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] released a rigorously peer reviewed report on the costs and benefits of regulations enacted due to Clean Air Act amendments. The report disclosed costs of $53 billion along with $1.3 trillion in benefits; that is 25 times greater benefits than costs under these amendments. Additionally, the report 160,000 lives were saved in 2010 due to rules and regulations pursuant to these amendments. Furthermore, although it took twenty years in March 2011, the EPA issued preliminary regulations for the nearly 800 million pounds of airborne toxins released annually from coal-fired plants. When implemented, these regulations are expected to produce 31,000 construction jobs for pollution control installation and 9.000 long-term utility jobs.
Unfortunately in the second most severe economic crisis in American history, scapegoating regulations has proven to be a very effective and powerful dog whistle. This is clever propaganda for the reactionary attack on government, but there is simply no evidence to support the contention. Job killing regulations are a myth. As Richard Morgenstern, an EPA official from the Reagan to the Clinton years says, “The effect on jobs is negligible.” At times regulations shift jobs from on field or industry to another, but they do not kill jobs. For example, jobs lost in some industries due to pollution curtailment are typically offset by jobs gained in pollution abatement.
The use of the job-killer label diverts the public conversation from the finer point of regulation. The main concern should not be on jobs lost or gained, but on the impact on air and water quality and on the lives saved and health improvements that result from the regulations. The criterion should always be does the regulatory effort deliver benefits that justify its cost.
In many cases, the regulations in question help ensure safer, healthier children, safer roads, fewer industrial accidents, and other societal benefits. The reactionary critique is false in its initial premise – government regulations are inherently bad – and every other element in the argument is demonstrably false. There has been no unprecedented wave of new regulations. Regulations have not undermined the economy. Businesses repeatedly support their main problem is lack of demand. Regulations have not hurt the nation. Furthermore, the reactionary argument completely ignores the fact that a lack of regulation allowed banks and other financial institutions to pursue risky practices that crashed the economy and cost millions of jobs. This was the true job killer and regulations had not part in it.
Despite the lack of evidence. statistics, or sound research to support them, reactionaries continue to label existing and proposed regulations – job killers. Unfortunately their labels are misapplied and their claims simply are not true. The regulations they claim hurt the economy do not. Furthermore, these regulations protect every American from real dangers and their associated costs. Job-killing regulations is like a tale told by an idiot. It is full of sound and fury, but it signifies nothing – nothing true that is. In persisting in this false claim, Republicans practice the propaganda technique sometimes Ad nauseam: tireless repetition of a slogan or catch phrase over and over in the hopes it will ultimately be taken as true. In combination with another technique known as The Big Lie – the simplistic explanation of a complex event in a way that supplants citizenry’s accurate perception of the underlying event. In this case, the underlying event is the crash of the economy. Reactionaries do not want the electorate to accurately perceive what happened here. So they use propaganda to divert attention and sow confusion.
Elections have consequences. Elections are important. If we want to preserve, protect, and defend the Republic, we must do all within our power to ensure that elections are not sold to the highest bidder or stolen by the boldest liar. It will not be easy, but it must be done. In this struggle we can draw comfort from this truth: “The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”
Tags: economy, elections, jobs, lies, regulations, Republicans, Truth