In 1776, Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence,
"He [King George III] has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance."
With Jefferson’s words, you could conclude that our country was founded on the idea that, under most circumstances, government ought to leave us alone.
Yet 241 years later, roughly 30% of the workforce is covered by some form of occupational licensing — from florists to funeral attendants, from tree trimmers to make-up artists — according to the Brookings Institution.
[Editor’s note: About this time last year, we gave you 4 Grand Slams of Nannyism that may be going on in your community.]
While on the campaign trail, Donald Trump gained popularity among business owners by blaming regulations for stifling business.
"We are cutting the regulation at a tremendous clip. I would say 70% of regulations can go. It’s just stopping businesses from growing."
Then in January, President Trump told business leaders that he believed he could cut regulations by 75% … or maybe more.
Mr. Trump told reporters at the meeting that included Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk and Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank,
"We’re going to be cutting regulation massively, but the rules will be just as protective of the people."
In at least one instance, he has followed up on his promise to cut regulations.
Whether he’s doing so while protecting us is yet to be seen.
Oct. 27, 2016: A bill to protect your private internet history
Last October, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under the Obama administration adopted regulations requiring Internet service providers (ISPs), like AT&T (T), Comcast (CMSCA) and Verizon (VZ), to do more to protect customers’ privacy.
Under the rules, ISPs would need consumers’ permission before using their location, financial information, health information, children’s information, and web browsing history for advertising and marketing.
The rule was issued on Dec. 2, 2016, and took effect on Jan. 3, 2017, less than three weeks before Trump moved into the White House.
However, those rules did not apply to websites such as Google (GOOGL), Facebook (FB), Netflix (NFLX) and Twitter (TWTR), which are governed by less-restrictive rules issued by the Federal Trade Commission.
So ISP companies complained that the FCC rule placed them at a disadvantage with non-ISP Internet companies that also collect user data.
April 3, 2017: A bill to let telecoms sell your private internet history to highest bidder
Many Republicans saw the FCC rule as a power grab during the closing days of the Obama administration. And on March 28, 2017, Congress voted to block it by using the Congressional Review Act (CRA). That’s a little-known tool that allows Congress and the president to overturn recently passed agency regulations.
Trump signed it on April 3.
Now ISPs including Comcast, AT&T and Time Warner (TWX) can sell your browsing habits to third parties who use it for marketing or other purposes.
Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said,
"I fear [the privacy rollback] is just a preview of coming attractions. Big broadband companies don’t want to give consumer privacy protections the attention they deserve.
"Consumers will have no ability to stop Internet service providers from invading their privacy and selling sensitive information about their health, finances, and children to advertisers, insurers, data brokers or others who can profit off of this personal information, all without their affirmative consent."
Craig Aron, CEO of the advocacy group Free Press said,
"It’s shocking that of all the challenges facing this country the Trump administration would prioritize taking away people’s privacy.
"There is literally no public support for this bill. Its only advocates are the nation’s biggest phone, cable and Internet companies. There’s no longer any question — if there ever was — whose needs this administration intends to serve. But people everywhere are on high alert to the serious threat to the free and open Internet. And they will fight back."
The votes in Congress to repeal the FCC regulation were, for the most part, split down party lines. But money could have influenced some of them … that is, money the telecommunications industry gave directly to members of Congress.
For instance, among the top recipients of telecom money for their 2016 elections who voted for the bill was:
- Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) — $164,100
- Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) — $150,900
- Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) — $128,100.
- Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) — $110,831
- Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) —— $104,984
You can see how your Senators voted by clicking here. For your Representative, click here.
And for a list of how much they pocketed from the telecoms, go here.
But there are some in Congress who boasted that they aren’t in it for the money and voted for the bill …
Consider Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) who said in a town meeting that the idea his constituents pay his salary is "bullcrap."
"No one here pays me to go," he told the audience.
He pays for it himself, he said. However, he collected $174,000 in Congressional salary plus loads of perks. What’s more, he was happy to take $39,500 from the telecom industry for his 2016 reelection campaign.
So is it, as Trump would claim, that rolling back a set of broadband privacy regulations is all about stifling government overreach and too many rules?
Or is it about Congressional and powerful industry greed?
We have no idea on how much Comcast, Time Warner, AT&T, Verizon, and others stand to benefit.
But if don’t like it, consider what Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) told a town hall attendee who was concerned about the elimination of online privacy protections:
"Nobody’s got to use the Internet."
Maybe Sensenbrenner’s comment supports the cord-cutting case more than ever. What do you think? Tell us in the comments.
The Uncommon Wisdom Daily Team