What do you do when a new report undermines a narrative you’ve used to forcefully promote your agenda? You release it on a Friday evening with minimal media outreach, hoping nobody takes notice.
At least, that’s what the Trump administration did with a recent report discrediting his administration’s claim that federal protections impose debilitating costs on our economy and society.
The report, written by the White House’s own Office of Management and Budget, showed that federal regulations in place between 2006 and 2016 brought between $287 billion and $911 billion in benefits – dramatically outweighing costs of between $78 billion and $115 billion.
In sum, the regulations offered a staggering net benefit of up to $833 billion.
Figures like that would make any prudent chief executive gasp and fawn. Instead, the Trump administration has kept practically mum about the report while continuing to promote a fictitious view of the effect federal safeguards have on Americans.
That, of course, doesn’t mean the report will go away.
Pruitt digs his heels in
The same Friday evening the OMB report came out, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt gave a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, touting the repeal of 22 environmental and public health regulations he claimed would save the nation $1 billion.
The EPA chief did not mention the benefits of those rules, nor the role they played keeping people healthy and safe. In Pruitt’s twisted calculus, the equation is simple: Regulations are bad, without exception.
As the OMB report shows, however, such protections provide net savings many times over by limiting health and social costs, while boosting community and private revenues. Examples of this at the EPA, so often the target of Pruitt’s own deregulatory attacks, are abundant.
Policies cited in the report for which benefits outweigh costs include heavy-duty truck emissions, cross-state air pollution, landfills, natural gas emissions – and the list goes on. Among the benefits of those regulations: fewer deaths, asthma attacks and debilitating cardiovascular conditions; lower rates of cancer; and healthier, happier American communities.
A history of inflated “costs”
There’s a long history of “sky is falling” claims about costs from environmental and public health protections.
For instance, a business roundtable of the American CEO Association argued that 1990 Clean Air Act amendments would assert a financial burden of $104 billion. In reality, the actual cost was about $20 billion, not accounting for the remarkable health protections and benefits that the amendments afford.
Another estimate by the automobile industry claimed standards to address pollution from cars would impose a cost of $432 per vehicle, when the real cost was $88.
The Trump administration takes a one-sided view of the subject that does not in good faith consider the remarkable benefits that smart policies offer. Interestingly, there’s now a report showing exactly what such policies bring to keep our families and communities safe – even, if for now, Trump’s White House wants to bury it.
What happens now?
The OMB report is now in the hands of Congress, where some members will likely look at it and maybe use it, while others just pretend it doesn’t exist or even question the report’s underlying data.
Those of us who want to keep our families and communities safe and healthy, meanwhile, can use it as more evidence as we fight back against the Trump administration’s efforts to roll back America’s bedrock environmental protections.
The facts, validated byTrump’s own budget office, are on our side.