Regulations help working people, deregulation serves corporate interests

Economic Policy Institute

Whose interests are served by repealing existing regulations and curbing future ones? In light of recent anti-regulation efforts pushed by Congress and the Trump administration, Economic Policy Institute labor counsel Celine McNicholas and director of policy Heidi Shierholz raise the question with a new fact sheet.

The following is comment from the Economic Policy Institute.

Regulations often help working people, while deregulation primarily benefits corporate interests and can have devastating consequences for the economy. Not only does regulation help make the economy more fair, but the lack of sensible regulations can lead to economic catastrophe and the loss of millions of jobs.

Regulations provide the structure and the details that a law needs to function. They are not static, and can be updated to adapt to changing norms. Research has found that regulations have a neutral or modestly positive effect on employment. While regulations may sometimes cause a reduction of jobs in one area, new jobs are will be created in another.

“The belief that financial markets can ‘self-regulate’ is a myth,” says Shierholz. “Deregulation and lax enforcement played a major role in the housing bubble and the financial crisis. Nearly nine million jobs were lost in the resulting Great Recession in 2008 and 2009.”

The fact sheet outlines various regulations that Congress is attempting to repeal or has repealed using a rarely used procedure called the Congressional Review Act — such as the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order and the OSHA recordkeeping rule — which directly benefit working people and which hold private interests responsible for workplace rights and safety violations.

The fact sheet also explains proposed congressional actions that limit future regulations from being implemented — such as the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act, which would make congressional approval required for a major rule to take effect. This would make it more difficult to hold private interests accountable.

“In examining efforts to repeal regulations, it is important to consider whose interests are served,” says McNicholas. “We should be skeptical of claims that regulation hurts the economy, because the truth is that deregulation often hurts working people and allows corporate interests to get a free pass on public accountability.”

The Economic Policy Institute, a nonprofit Washington D.C. think tank, was created in 1986 to broaden the discussion about economic policy to include the interests of low- and middle-income workers. Today, with global competition expanding, wage inequality rising, and the methods and nature of work changing in fundamental ways, it is as crucial as ever that people who work for a living have a voice in the economic discourse.