It was remarkable how fast some GOP pols geared up to take advantage of our know-nothing President-elect to push their favorite hobby horses. We’ve not only got folks revving up the endless Obamacare repeal effort, but Paul Ryan has signaled that he has Trump’s thumbs-up to go forward with his Medicare privatization plan. Nor did Missouri’s Ann Wagner waste any time, immediately signaling that she is going after Department of Labor (DOL) regulations designed to protect small investors and retirees.
The DOL rules that have kept Wagner and her banking friends all lathered up are intended to keep investment professionals from giving advice that serves their own interest rather than their clients. As I noted in an earlier post on this topic, “a report (pdf) from the Council of Economic Advisers estimates that retirees are defrauded of $17 billion a year by unscrupulous advisers who fail to disclose conflicts of interest or the hidden fees they are charging the unwary.”
Wagner has fought this rule relentlessly, submitting and resubmitting legislation designed to repeal it, going so far as to threaten DOL funding if it finalized the rules. Trump’s victory has only revitalized her efforts.
In Wagner’s regular constituent’s newsletter, which was emailed to me today, she is signaling that the effort to rescind this rule, which she shamelessly terms “Obamacare for investors,” will be part of a larger effort to keep the Obama administration from finalizing new regulations during the period before the Trump ascendancy. She writes:
For the past 8 years, President Obama has used his pen and phone to create a fourth branch of government, imposing executive orders and federal rules and regulations to benefit his own radical political agenda. President-elect Trump must have the opportunity to enact policies without regulatory hindrance from the previous Administration.
This is why the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Midnight Rules Relief Act last week, which would halt President Obama’s ability to rush through politically motivated regulations during the remainder of his term. I have spent my time in Congress fighting for our families, fighting to repeal regulations that are hindering business growth, and fighting to provide a voice to the voiceless. I am proud that we came together to ensure our new President, Donald Trump, has the support in Congress that he has earned.
If the president has relied on the rule-making powers of agencies subject to executive control, it is simply because a Republican-controlled congress consistently obstructed his goals – even going so far as to shut-down the government at great cost to tax-payers. Why in Hades, then, would Wagner expect Democrats to do anything to assist President-elect Trump (or even President Trump) in the great corporate giveaway that lies ahead?
The Midnight Rules Relief Act that Wagner refers to will undoubtedly be vetoed by President Obama – if it even makes it to his desk. It’s superfluous at any rate, since retrospective efforts to kill regulations issued during his presidency will likely be ongoing under the 20 year old Congressional Review Act.
It is also apropos to note that the regulations likely to be finalized during the remaining months of President Obama’s term have almost all been in process for a long time, having undergone extensive review and open-comment periods. These are not, as some assert, hasty and “politically motivated” regulations. Far from constituting a “fourth branch of government,” making and enacting such agency-specific regulations is a part of the function of executive agencies. The administration is just doing its jobs.
As for Wagner’s self-proclaimed advocacy for “families” and the “voiceless,” I hardly think that the banking industry, the interests of which she has been well-compensated for representing so ardently (see also here), hardly qualifies under either rubric. But hell, she’s a Republican. If they told the truth, nobody would ever vote for them.
I’m sure that from Wagner’s perspective it’s much better to present consumer fiduciary protection as another example of government interference in ordinary families’ lives, a condescending elite belief that “the American people need to be protected from themselves, that they are not smart or capable enough to control their own retirement savings.” Of course, when investment professionals don’t have to tell you the truth, it hardly reflects on your intelligence or capacity when they take advantage of you. And, despite Wagner’s condescending effort to manipulate perception, most small investors, many of whom are elderly retired folk, don’t always know what they don’t know.
But what I want to know is where does Wagner get off conflating a rule that protects consumers with “Obamacare” as if its the all-time scare label? I know she claims that requiring investment advisors to act in an honest and above-board fashion would discourage them from working with small investors because, evidently, they won’t work for folks they can’t bilk. And that’s a pretty dumb pitch. But just because she can’t think of any better justification, does Obamacare have to take all the weight for her mendacity just because her equally mendacious colleagues managed to smear an overall good health care delivery reform by tying it to the first black president?
*5th and 6th paragraphs from bottom were slightly revised for clarity and style.