Draining Washington of Science and Talent

by Laurie Ristino | September 20, 2018

Donald Trump has, in a sense, made good on his promise to "drain" Washington, D.C. – but not in the way many people probably thought he would. The exodus from our nation's capital has been made up of the scientists, diplomats, and policy experts that a democracy needs to function, not the high-powered, special interest lobbyists voters likely had in mind. Meanwhile, a raft of grifters has gleefully taken a temporary perch in the executive branch. The ensuing debacles, scandals, and assaults on safeguards and agencies have made it stunningly clear how critical a competent, public interest-focused executive branch is to our country's well-being.

One recent example of Trump's war on federal agencies is Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue's surprise announcement last month that he planned to reorganize the Economic Research Service (ERS), an independent economic research agency. Perdue's announcement was a shock to ERS employees, who were told about the plan a mere hour before the proposal was made public. The administration's purported rationale, met with disbelief by ERS economists, is to better align ERS with the needs of the department and save money. However, the reality is that the proposed changes are a one-two punch to undermine the independence and capacity of the agency.

First, under the plan, ERS will report to the Office of the Chief Economist, removing a firewall between the ERS and political appointees. Second, ...

The Threat to Individual Liberty in Judge Kavanaugh's CFPB Opinion

by Karen Sokol | July 24, 2018
This post is part of a series on Judge Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. "This is a case about executive power and individual liberty." That is how Judge Brett Kavanaugh started the opinion he wrote for a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals holding that the structure of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was unconstitutional. That opinion is one among many that reflects Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh's belief that administrative agencies are in a constitutionally ...

This Year's Farm Bill Has Huge Environmental Implications

by Laurie Ristino | July 23, 2018
Scott Pruitt's narcissistic reign as EPA Administrator consumed advocates' collective energies, and rightfully so. It was a drama that recently ended – not via Trump tweet, but by old-fashioned resignation. Alas, this victory's potential downside is that the new guy at EPA, Andrew Wheeler, may be more effective at dismantling environmental protections than Pruitt was because Wheeler actually understands how bureaucracy works. Then, of course, came the orchestrated events surrounding Justice Kennedy's retirement and President Trump's pick to fill the ...

Workers at Risk from USDA's Proposed Swine Slaughter Inspection Rule

by Katie Tracy | May 01, 2018
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA/FSIS) proposed a rule on Feb. 1 to alter inspection procedures for hog slaughter plants by revoking the existing cap on maximum line speeds and transferring key inspection tasks from USDA inspectors to private plant workers. These changes to current practices raise numerous concerns for worker health and safety, all of which the agency fails to address in the proposal.  Because of these concerns, Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) Member ...

Recipe: Turning the House's Lemon of a Farm Bill into Lemonade

by Laurie Ristino | April 25, 2018
Last week, the House Agriculture Committee passed a pock-marked, micro-legislated Farm Bill along strict party lines. It's a shameful goody bag of legislative delights for a few that comes at the expense of the majority of the American people.  Some lowlights: The bill holds our hungriest Americans hostage by conditioning SNAP benefits (food stamps) on job training (what kind of country withholds food from its citizens?); reduces conservation dollars that are critically needed given the pitiful state of soil health ...

Blowing the Whistle on Workplace Hazards

by Katie Tracy | March 14, 2018
Workers have the right to speak up about health and safety hazards they encounter on the job. And they should be able to feel comfortable coming forward with their concerns without having to worry that they will be fired, demoted, or in some other way retaliated against for doing so. That is exactly what the drafters of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) had in mind when they included a provision in the 1970 law prohibiting employers from ...

Is the Farm "Safety Net" Safe?

by Laurie Ristino | February 08, 2018
This blog post is part of a series on the 2018 Farm Bill. Since the 1930s, Congress has tried to formulate an effective farm “safety net,” oscillating among different schemes in order to protect farmers from the severe economic impacts of the Depression and the Dust Bowl. What started as a New Deal emergency intervention has become an entrenched legislative ritual. Indeed, this perennial Farm Bill debate remains a relic of 20th century policy. It’s designed to perpetuate, not to innovate. The ...

Farm Bill 2018: Down Payment on an Effective Conservation Title

by Laurie Ristino | January 17, 2018
This blog post is the first in a forthcoming series on the 2018 Farm Bill. As Congress begins the complex task of crafting the next Farm Bill, much is at stake – from conservation to "food stamps" to rural economies. This blog post is the first in a series addressing important policy considerations with an eye toward making the Farm Bill more effective, rather than backsliding on these and other important issues. President Obama once referred to the current (2014) ...

Weaponizing Wealth: Unjust Redistribution Upward

by Carl Cranor | December 18, 2017
Is the current "tax reform" going through Congress just? Justice is important because even if citizens are treated dissimilarly by institutions, if the differences are just, all have reasonable treatment and the institutions are likely to be socially accepted.  A widely endorsed theory of justice, developed by the philosopher John Rawls nearly 50 years ago, captures how thoroughly unjust the congressional tax plan is. Understanding this and how it weaponizes wealth against most ordinary citizens may explain why so many ...

More Thoughts on the CFPB Puzzle: President Trump Can Select Someone to Run the CFPB Only if the Senate Has an Opportunity to Confirm

by Nina Mendelson | November 28, 2017
Originally posted at Notice & Comment, a blog of the Yale Journal on Regulation and the American Bar Association Section of Administrative Law & Regulatory Practice. Reprinted with permission. On Friday, November 24, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray named Leandra English, the longtime CFPB Chief of Staff, to the post of Deputy Director. Based on legislation specific to the CFPB, that put her in a position to serve as Acting Director upon his departure. Cordray then resigned. A few ...

Beyond the Dinner Table -- U.S. Poultry Plant Workers at Risk

by Katie Tracy | November 20, 2017
On Thanksgiving Day, families across the country will sit down for huge feasts, filling their bellies with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and lots of gravy. My mouth is watering just writing about it. In many households, it's tradition for each person at the table to say what they're thankful for and express their appreciation for the meal in front of them. But when it comes to that delicious meal, we often overlook the workers inside the poultry slaughter facilities and ...

The Hill Op-Ed: The House Recently Sided with Big Banks over Consumers

by Martha T. McCluskey | August 07, 2017
This op-ed originally ran in The Hill. Did you read the fine print when you signed up for your credit card, a loan on your car, or a new checking account? Chances are, you missed an important provision called a "forced arbitration clause." This provision says that if the bank or credit card company has made a mistake it refuses to correct, or even cheated you out of money, you cannot sue to attempt to get your money back. Instead, you ...

With Final Forced Arbitration Rule, the CFPB Continues to Advance the Public Interest

by Thomas McGarity | July 13, 2017
Earlier this week, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) took decisive action to protect hardworking people who are cheated by banks or other financial institutions. Specifically, the federal agency issued a rule limiting what are known as "forced arbitration" agreements in the contracts we must all sign when we open a bank account or purchase certain kinds of financial products and services. Last year, scholars and staff at the Center for Progressive Reform authored a report that supported CFPB's efforts ...

Regulatory Paralysis by Preemption: GMO Food Labeling and Potentially More

by Lesley McAllister | March 02, 2017
Originally published on Environmental Law Prof Blog by CPR Member Scholar Lesley McAllister. Did you know that as of July 2016, we have a new federal law mandating that genetically engineered food be labeled? It is true – see 7 U.S.C. § 1639(b)(2)(D) (Jul. 29, 2016). So when, you might ask, will you be able to know which of all those foods we buy at the grocery store are produced with GMOs? It could be a very long wait. For one thing, ...

Health for Women, Health for All

by Catherine O'Neill | January 24, 2017
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently updated their nationwide consumption advisory on mercury contamination in fish. The advisory, which focuses on women of childbearing age and children, aims to "make[] it easier than ever" to determine which fish species to eat and which to avoid. It seeks to ensure that women and children don't have to forgo the health benefits of eating fish in order to avoid consuming the potent neurodevelopmental toxin.    Despite ...

Beware Compounded Drugs -- Especially Under Trump's FDA

by Rena Steinzor | December 14, 2016
A burgeoning and little-regulated private industry that specially mixes drugs at so-called compounding pharmacies poses a public-health hazard that the Trump administration is about to make a whole lot worse. An earlier version of this story appeared in The American Prospect.  President-elect Donald Trump has pledged to eliminate 70 to 80 percent of all federal regulations, and the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) rulebook is near the top of his list. Close Trump adviser Newt Gingrich has denounced the FDA ...

New CPR Report: Protecting the Rights of Victims of Defective Aircraft

by James Goodwin | November 30, 2016
Many Americans would likely be shocked to learn how lax government oversight of the manufacture and design of aircraft, such as airplanes and helicopters, has become. After all, any list of those areas of the economy that would seem to cry out for strict regulation would have to include aircraft production and maintenance, considering that when aircraft are defective or contain defective parts, the consequences are almost inevitably catastrophic and tragic.  Yet, in a 2004 audit, Congress' nonpartisan Government Accountability ...

Hair-Raising Ordeal Draws Attention to Lack of Oversight of Cosmetics, Personal Care Products

by Mollie Rosenzweig | November 01, 2016
Last year, consumers linked Wen hair products to sudden and dramatic hair loss. The story generated a flurry of national coverage and spurred increased interest in just how closely the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates our cosmetic products. Indeed, Wen hair products are not alone in causing dangerous side effects and containing disconcerting ingredients: Consumers have raised alarms over formaldehyde in hair straightening products, mercury in skin creams, and an array of toxic chemicals in children's face paint, including ...

Food, Drug, Product Safety

How safe is the food we eat? How safe and effective are the drugs we take? What about the cars we drive and the consumer products we buy? These are questions one might expect federal regulatory agencies to answer with quick and reassuring replies. Unfortunately, examples of unsafe products in recent years have been far too common, and in some cases, all too deadly.

Draining Washington of Science and Talent

Ristino | Sep 20, 2018 | Food, Drug, Product Safety

The Threat to Individual Liberty in Judge Kavanaugh's CFPB Opinion

Sokol | Jul 24, 2018 | Food, Drug, Product Safety

Regulatory Paralysis by Preemption: GMO Food Labeling and Potentially More

McAllister | Mar 02, 2017 | Food, Drug, Product Safety

Beware Compounded Drugs -- Especially Under Trump's FDA

Steinzor | Dec 14, 2016 | Food, Drug, Product Safety

The Center for Progressive Reform

455 Massachusetts Ave., NW, #150-513
Washington, DC 20001
info@progressivereform.org
202.747.0698

© Center for Progressive Reform, 2015