GOP Rep. Ann Wagner must have a fixation on The Wizard of Oz because she spends lots of time creating straw men – and like the straw man in the story, they are all equally brainless. Witness her comments justifying President Moron’s efforts to rescind climate and consumer friendly regulations enacted during the Obama years:
“Everyone pays for the cost of compliance by government overreach, and it was on steroids during the Obama administration,” said Wagner, who said that an aversion to government regulation had been in “my DNA” since she was 12 or 13 and she saw her father and mother have to replace a new sign in their carpet store because it was a few inches too wide.
My heart breaks. The sheer inconvenience of all that overreach. Just imagine having to get a new sign.
Of course, my heart also nearly broke when my husband and I finally faced up to the fact of my 84 year old mother-in-laws’ increasing dementia and took over her finances. Imagine our surprise when we examined investments sold to her by her long-time (small) bank and learned that not only was she being sold highly risky securities, but that they were being sold over and over (the technical term is “churned”), generating comfortable commissions for the financial “advisor.” That discovery was nothing, though, compared to the statement she had been given to sign asserting that she had sufficient expertise to understand the risks of the investments made in her name. Bear in mind that this was a woman who couldn’t understand her electric bill – and who insisted that the banker in question took good care of her investments because she, the banker, was a “vice-president” and such a friendly woman who appreciated my mother-n-law’s long history with the bank.
Ann Wagner worked hard to dismantle the fiduciary regulations promulgated during the Obama years that would have insured that this type of behavior was unthinkable. Of course, to hear her tell it, she was actually insuring that elderly investors could get financial advice – advisors might chose, she implies, to refuse to work with such folks if they can’t fleece them.
Wagner’s ecstatic about Trump’s efforts to neuter the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – an agency that saved consumers billions over the past few years, but got under the skin of the big bankers for whom Wagner is the main Girl Friday in Congress. She’s been one of the most enthusiastic congressional cheerleaders for dismantling the Dodd-Frank bill that created the agency. I didn’t, however, hear anything from our gal in D.C. when my 401(k) lost half its value in 2008 – thanks to the unregulated shenanigans of those very bankers. Evidently her DNA doesn’t permit her to consider problems bigger than daddy’s store’s sign.
Then, of course, there are the regulations proposed by Obama’s Clean Power Plan. Rolling back rules that would lessen harmful emissions will, of course, have devastating effect on efforts to slow and mitigate climate change. But that’s long-range stuff. Republicans like Wagner don’t have any use for that type of long term thinking – there’s no money in it after all.
But let me tell you a story that has implications for short as well as long range issues if these rules are successfully weakened. Fifteen years ago, when I announced my upcoming move to St. Louis, a colleague told me to be sure, when we bought a house, to buy on the east side of the Mississippi or far out in the West County. The reason: pollution. He explained to me that St. Louis is located in the center of a bowl shaped area with higher ground east and west. Pollution tends to settle in the city and its near suburbs, especially in warm weather. This gentleman had formerly worked in St. Louis and sold his house to move further out into the western higher suburbs – he eventually left the St. Louis region altogether to take a lower paying job – after the birth of a child who suffered from cystic fibrosis. His family and their doctors believed that it was literally a matter of life and death for the child given the pollution levels in the city.
Somehow, when it comes to regulation, Rep. Wagner’s parents’ sign doesn’t seem nearly as dire as the respiratory plight of folks in St. Louis which has ranked high on the list of most-polluted cities for many years (although data was not available for the American Lung Association’s State of the Air 2016 Report). Yet I’ve heard not a word of protest from Rep. Wagner as our intrepid President King Moron and his minion at the EPA, Scott Pruitt, try to undercut the Clean Power Plan.
Of course, there are probably some regulations that go too far. But shouldn’t our Congresspersons be going after those specific rules rather than than whole classes of rules that protect our health and financial well-being? Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill certainly seems to be able to hone in on real overreach when it happens without doing harm to regulations essential for our well-being:
… Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., is trying to repeal a rule requiring a magician from Springfield, Mo., to register his rabbit with the federal government and to have a disaster evacuation plan for the bunny. “I am not against getting rid of regulations that make no sense and make businesses jump through hoops that aren’t necessary, […] But I am not going to let them dismantle the EPA. I am going to do everything I can to fight Scott Pruitt because they are nominating people (to administer federal environmental programs) that can’t cite one clear air regulation they agree with.”
So if Senator McCaskill is capable of making such critical distinctions, why can’t Rep. Wagner and her pals? Does she have to insult our intelligence by claiming that all regulations are equal?
Perhaps The Wizard of Oz does really give us the answer to what’s going on in the mind of Republicans like Wagner. Not only does it feature a brainless straw man, but he’s enabled by a heartless tin man and a cowardly lion. Kinda like Wagner’s Republican party under Trump: brainless, heartless and, most importantly, cowardly folks who jump when their donors crack the whip.