Driving That Train/No Regs Is Insane


Since taking office, Donald Trump and his like-minded Republican Congressional leaders have been on a deregulation blitz. Shortly after the inauguration, Trump pledged to cut 16 federal regulations for every new one. Despite being ridiculously arbitrary, this willy nilly vow to drastically reduce government regs (and especially as many as possible from the previous administration in an almost maniacal drive to erase every deed Obama achieved in office) without any deep thought at the need/effectiveness of these regulations makes about as much sense as promising to help restore prosperity to the middle class, then pass a massive tax cut bill that disproportionately benefits the wealthy, while adding over a trillion dollars to the national debt (Republicans as the so-called party of fiscal responsibility- not when they are in control of Congress and the White House!) and serves to stimulate the economy at a time when the U.S. has been enjoying the longest post-recession expansion in its history and there are indications that inflation is on the rise for the first time in many years- the exact time when a govern-ment stimulus is NOT needed and may indeed backfire by causing the economy to overheat and potentially trigger a new recession. But I digress.

Republicans are so ideologically wedded to the idea that regulations are bad and good government must be as small as possible thereby avoiding intrusion into the lives of its citizens (except of course when it comes to the military, where the U.S. spends far more than any other country in the history of the world, or national security, where Trump refuses to back down from his campaign pledge of building a wall no matter how expensive and ineffective it would be compared to cameras, drones, sensors and boots/eyes on the ground along the border), that they have an almost knee-jerk reaction to block or destroy regulations. Just a few examples- 1). the Dodd-Franks Act, passed in the aftermath of the near-financial collapse of 2008, intended to rein in large investment banks' trading of high-risk, mortgage security bundles (the "toxic assets" that forced Congress and Republican President George W. Bush to agree to a massive bailout of banks to prevent a catastrophic blow to the financial system that would have triggered another Great Depression) and ensure that banks have enough capital in reserve to avoid future need of government bailouts, is now threatened with rollbacks by Republicans, which could increase the odds of a similar financial calamity by allowing big banks to once again engage in more high-risk activity. 2). The aviation bill passed in the after-math of the deadly crash of Flight 3407 in Clarence, N.Y. in 2009 that required airlines to improve pilot training, reduce pilot fatigue, and step up hiring practices by mandating all pilots have 1,500 flight-hours prior to working at commercial airlines. Regional air-lines have been fighting against these regulations since the law's inception, especially the 1,500-hour mandate, but I don't think it is a coincidence that there has not been a single fatal commercial airline crash in the U.S. since the law was implemented. I applaud the families of Flight 3407, who have spent much time and money traveling dozens of times to Washington D.C. to urge Congress to first pass the bill, and steadfastly have made it their mission, in honor of the memory of their loved ones who died on that flight and for all present and future air passengers, to maintain and not water down the regulations.

3). The Brady Bill- passed after the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan in 1981 and named after his Press Secretary, who died years later from wounds suffered during that incident, which banned assault rifles. Republicans in Congress, eventually let the ban on assault rifles expire, and now the U.S. is flush with semi-automatic weapons, like the AR-15 used in several mass shootings. I am not going to get into all the nuances of the pro-gun and anti-gun arguments (that could be the topic of another blog) but I will say this- I find it despicable that 2nd Amendment activists who are so militantly pro-gun and fervently opposed to virtually every gun-control regulation always when they point to the 2nd Amendment find it convenient to ignore the exact wording of the Constitution which explicitly states "a well-regulated militia." Federal appeals courts have repeatedly ruled that states have the constitutional authority to pass gun-control regulations, and even Antonin Scalia, perhaps the most conservative Supreme Court justice of the past half-century, in the District of Columbia vs. Heller case of 2008 stated that individuals' right to bear arms "is not unlimited." But I don't want to get bogged down by the gun debate in this blog post- instead I'll move on to one regulation the Trump administration has withdrawn that has literally cost lives and could lead to many more deaths.

After a number of deadly train crashes involving drowsy conductors/engineers, the Federal Railroad Administration proposed mandating sleep apnea screening for train workers. Here is the background according to a recent article published by The New York Times "Lack of sleep apnea test blamed in train crashes": The National Transportation Safety Board "officially concluded that the engineers' fatigue and their employers' failure to screen for sleep apnea caused two similar crashes- one in Hoboken, N.J., in late 2016 that killed one person and another in Brooklyn about two months later... The Federal Railroad Administration had proposed mandating screening for sleep apnea but with-drew that proposal in August 2017 as part of the Trump administration's effort to reduce regulations." At a recent Congressional hearing, the NTSB Chairman, Robert L. Sumwalt, said "he was mystified by the withdrawal last year of the proposed rule on screening train crews for sleep apnea" and stated, "The public deserves alert operators. That's not too much to ask." As someone who suffers from sleep apnea and knows from personal experience how profound the effects of sleep deprivation are (which I wrote about in my three-part blog series in December), I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Sumwalt. But as with gun-control regulations, or especially with this ideologically rigid Republican-led Congress and a dangerously ignorant President regarding serious policy decisions, the Trump administration's withdrawal of the proposed sleep apnea screening is actually contributing to the deaths of American people and Trump supporters are either ignorant or too ideologically opposed to government regulations to care.

#Trump #Congress #Republicans #governmentregulations #Obama #ideology #DoddFranksAct #Flight3407 #BradyBill #assaultweaponban #guncontrol #2ndAmendment #NTSB #sleepapnea #FederalRailroadAdministration

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© 2017 by Peter McNeela.