When it comes to the debate over the economy, the Republican message has become extremely narrow. With President Obama already having cut taxes more than Bush/Cheney did, and the deal last December keeping Bush-era rates in place for everyone, it’s tougher for the right to blame taxes — so they’re sticking to blaming “regulations.”
Part of the problem, of course, is that the conservative argument has no meaningful foundation in reality. Paul Krugman’s column yesterday is well worth reading.
The starting point for many claims that antibusiness policies are hurting the economy is the assertion that the sluggishness of the economy’s recovery from recession is unprecedented. But, as a new paper by Lawrence Mishel of the Economic Policy Institute documents at length, this is just not true. Extended periods of “jobless recovery” after recessions have been the rule for the past two decades. Indeed, private-sector job growth since the 2007-2009 recession has been better than it was after the 2001 recession. […]
The truth is that we’re in this mess because we had too little regulation, not too much. And now one of our two major parties is determined to double down on the mistakes that caused the disaster.
The other part, though, is considering what Republicans mean, specifically, when they target regulations. There are all kinds of safeguards, rules, and protections that might fall under the “regulatory” umbrella. GOP officials may find it easy to paint with a broad brush, but some of the measures Republicans would like to scrap are well worth keeping around.
Take the newest Republican budget plan, for example.
In addition to blocking President Obama’s health care law and slashing funding for job training, the budget plan presented by House Republicans for health and labor programs this week would scuttle several worker safety protections put forth by the Department of Labor.
Among other anti-regulatory measures, the budget would block the department from moving forward with its Injury and Illness Prevention Program, which would require employers to develop written plans to address workplace hazards and reduce worker injuries. Under the Republican plan, no Labor Department funding could be devoted toward the program.
The budget also takes aim at an obscure but notable Labor Department rule intended to reduce the death and maiming of construction workers who labor on rooftops. The department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration had planned to ramp up the enforcement of harness rules for roofers working on residential construction sites, but the Republican plan forbids the agency from doing so, as noted by the public-health blog The Pump Handle.
Another OSHA rule gutted by the bill relates to repetitive-motion injuries. The agency has been developing a rule that will require employers to check a box on agency forms in cases where workers have developed musculoskeletal disorders. Although the rule costs practically nothing and goes primarily toward data collection, the Republican budget forbids it from moving forward.
Obviously this is a reminder of Republicans opposing worker rights and protections — that’s hardly new — but it’s also a reminder about the nonsensical underpinnings of the GOP’s economic agenda.
What, in Republican lawmakers’ eyes, will boost the economy? Workplaces in which Americans are more likely to be injured. That’s the plan.