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To regulate or deregulate? Pros and cons

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Are you for regulation or deregulation? At some point, which concept one embraces became tied to the ideology associated with political parties. Democrats tend to be for regulations that are geared toward consumer and environmental protection, while Republicans advocate for deregulation that eases restrictions on businesses, allowing for free markets.

President Trump campaigned vigorously on untying the hands of businesses – deregulation. Among his first actions as commander-in-chief was doing away with President Obama’s consumer and environmental protections – regulation. Two articles published last week on this issue caught my attention and got me to thinking about the ever-shrinking piece of common ground.

Deregulation occurs in one of three ways: Congress can vote to repeal a law; an agency can remove the regulation, typically via executive order; or, the agency can stop enforcing the law. Its advantages mean more innovation because industry barriers are dropped. This boosts the entrepreneurial spirit, competition and efficiency. The result can be lower consumer prices and improved quality. Larger industries amass power, which means more influence over regulatory control. Monopolies are born.

On the flip side, once those monopolies develop, there are no choices if you are unhappy with the price, which may increase due to market control. This gives businesses the power, not the consumers. Deregulation can lead to recessions, stifle new start-ups (competition), lead to fraud and risk-taking to spur profits, and an abandonment of safety and environmental practices that cost money to implement.

Deregulation has occurred in banking, energy and airlines. Later, new regulations were applied in banking (after risky derivative investments), energy (after fraud) and airlines (after underserved cities emerged, poor service prevailed and costs rose). Remember Citigroup, Enron and those miserable flights/longer waits?

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has with­drawn or de­layed hun­dreds of pro­posed reg­u­la­tions since he took of­fice in Jan­uary — moves the pres­i­dent has said will bol­ster eco­nomic growth. Now, back to those two articles that caught my attention.

The Associated Press reported that plans are being abandoned to re­quire sleep ap­nea screen­ing for truck driv­ers and train en­gi­neers. If I were the owner of one of those companies, I sure would hate to pay for costly testing. Safety ex­perts, however, say this will put mil­lions of lives at risk. “The Fed­eral Rail­road Ad­min­is­tra­tion and Fed­eral Mo­tor Car­rier Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion said late last week that they are no longer pur­su­ing the reg­u­la­tion that would re­quire test­ing for the fa­tigue-in­duc­ing dis­or­der that’s been blamed for deadly rail crashes in New York City and New Jersey, and sev­eral high­way crashes,” the AP report said.

The agen­cies ar­gue that it should be up to rail­roads and truck­ing com­pa­nies to de­cide whether to test em­ploy­ees. One rail­road that does test, Metro- North in the New York City sub­urbs, found that 11.6 per­cent of its en­gi­neers have sleep ap­nea, the article said. If one railroad that tests shows 11.6 percent, consider what the percentages might be for all railroad and trucking companies. These are people you or your loved ones are likely to encounter in your travels. It’s not a problem until the crash involves you, right? The American Sleep Apnea Association estimates that 22 million people suffer from the condition — with 80 percent of moderate to severe cases being undiagnosed.

The second article from the Arkansas Times focused on the implications of the ending of a rule to prevent nursing homes from forcing potential patients to agree to arbitration over complaints of abuse and neglect rather than being allowed to go to court. Sixteen states and the District of Columbia are fighting the rule, but Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is not, the Times reported. If I owned a nursing home, I sure would hate all those legal expenses from court cases. But, if you or a loved one were subjected to abuse and neglect in a nursing home, would arbitration be alright? More than two million cases of elder abuse are reported each year, according to nursinghomeabuseguide.org.

Regulation and deregulation both sound good. Pros and cons exist for both positions. And all is well until we are directly impacted – one way or the other.

(Shea Wilson is the former managing editor of the El Dorado News-Times. Email her at melsheawilson@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @sheawilson7).

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