If there’s been anything to feel good about in the last 10 months, it’s just how easily the country can get by without a functioning human in the Oval Office. But while its current occupant blusters and bluffs, his aides, cabinet, and the GOP-led Congress are busy enacting a savage agenda at the behest of their wealthy overlords.
For instance, the Financial Choice Act, which passed in the House last June. If it clears the Senate, it will roll back many of the protections in the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, which was passed in the wake of the Great Recession and the mortgage crisis of 2008. Companies would no longer have to disclose the pay ratio of chief executives to workers, and it would loosen restrictions on investment capital.
“For the bankers in the room, they’ll be very happy,” His Royal Shitness announced last summer.
The rest of us? Maybe not so much.
The Financial Choice Act would give the president the power to fire the directors of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which was created by Dodd-Frank. It would also give Congress insight over the CFPB’s budget, allowing lawmakers to defund the agency entirely.
The echo chamber known as Trump’s Cabinet is framing this as the greatest thing ever. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin barfed up a report saying, “Such requirements impose significant costs upon the public companies that are widely held by all investors,” noting that the number of publicly listed companies has declined 50 percent, an irrelevant factoid thrown in to pad the report like an overdue school assignment.
There’s no evidence that publicly traded companies outperform private ones, or that these regulations have anything to do with the number of public companies, which has been declining since 1997—not just since Obama signed the Dodd-Frank Act.
The Treasury Report goes further than the House Bill, recommending companies be able to privately discuss a potential public offering with likely shareholders before filing with regulators. “This ability is known as ‘testing the waters,’ which allows a company to gauge investor interest in a potential offering before undertaking the expense of preparing a registration statement.”
The report doesn’t mention that this would make it easier to scam the public via “pre-IPO speculation”—buying unregistered shares in a company prior to its initial public offering. These deals already range from risky to fraudulent. This would just make such scams easier.
The Treasury Report also recommends allowing companies to crowdfund up to $5 million in a year without having to go public—a gimme if you’re a trust fund kid with some gullible family and friends.
And that’s just the tip of the melting iceberg. Rick Perry, known for his 2016 debate gaffe wherein he forgot the name of the Department of Energy, now heads up the Department of Energy. (We couldn’t make this stuff up.)
On September 29, Perry directed the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission “to develop and implement reforms that would fully price generation resources necessary to maintain the reliability and resiliency of our nation’s grid.” This is in blatant defiance of the department’s own grid study, which found no threat from renewables to the reliability of the nation’s power grids.
So, Perry fabricated a threat and exaggerated the reliability of coal and nuclear, while ignoring the health and environmental costs of carbon. The Sierra Club called the move “unprecedented,” aimed at ending competition in the energy market, “in order to force customers to pay billions of dollars for uneconomic coal and nuclear plants they don’t want or need.”
On August 24, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke called for shrinking four national monuments to turn over more public property to mining and oil. Zinke has issues of his own, including allegations that he used charter flights unrelated to business on the taxpayers’ dime and threatened Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski. Zinke’s own department is investigating, and the spin machine out of his office is spinning overtime to blow this all away.
Then there’s former Health and Human Services prickster Tom Price, who was forced out of office after racking up over $400,000.00 in unnecessary charter flights.
Or Education Secretary Betsy “there’s a bear in the lunchroom” DeVos, whose security is costing taxpayers upwards of $6.5 million a year, presumably to protect her from errant erasers, I guess.
So, what was going on in all those GOP-only closed sessions? The “Big Six” tax plan, which calls for reducing the corporate tax rate, slashing taxes on unincorporated businesses, nearly doubling the standard deduction, expanding the child tax credit, and creating a special low rate on multinational earnings overseas.
The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimates the plan would cost $2.2 trillion, while not incorporating any revenue increases to pay for it. Even the House Freedom Caucus is demanding more details.
Doubling the standard deduction would lead to far fewer Americans bothering with itemized deductions like the mortgage interest deduction, which could lead to a decline in home values—coupled with a deregulated Wall Street and higher energy prices? What could go wrong?