An Open Letter to Rep. Darrell Issa

Dear Rep. Issa,

Politico reported Tuesday that last month you delivered letters to over 150 corporations, trade associations and conservative think tanks, requesting a list of their least favorite “existing and proposed regulations” that you, as House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chair, could help eliminate. The article further highlights your appeal for “suggestions on reforming identified regulations and the rulemaking process.”

Obviously there’s been some sort of mistake. As I’m sure you’re aware, Duke Energy, Toyota and Bayer—all recipients of your letter—are not residents of California’s gorgeous 49th district. Maybe you were thrown by the names of the American Petroleum Institute and the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA), hoping they were consumer-driven nonprofits focused on improving the safety of oil production and transport—assuming you’d like to protect the 49th district’s world-class beaches and environmental beauty.

Sadly, such is not the case. These corporations that received your letter, those unimaginably wealthy enough to warrant your personal concern, are not who elected you. They’re not even what elected you: people elected you (unfortunately), trusting you to elevate their needs over those of Fortune 500 company shareholders. Your constituents selected you as the best candidate to abandon partisan ideology when necessary and move towards a more measured, long-term approach to alleviating the current crisis. If nothing else, please let this letter serve as a reminder that distant institutional shareholders are not constituents, and corporations are not people.

Your letters openly indict regulations and rules as primary forces that stifle job growth, despite evidence that identifies weak consumer demand and a rapidly shrinking, more uncertain middle class as the chief obstacles to economic recovery. Perhaps you need to be reminded that the regulations you assail have led to safer food and drugs, cleaner air, better working conditions and more equitable pay.

As far as what created this mess, you’ll hopefully agree that derivatives market excesses on Wall Street built on a shaky housing bubble fueled by subprime mortgage loans stand as the guilty party. In fact, it was underregulation of the financial sector that’s to blame, rather than regulation of anything. As long as you’re writing letters to corporate America, maybe it would have made more sense to ask investment bank executives why their multi-million-dollar fees and bonuses meant more to them than the economic health and future of our country?

Your implied argument that economic recession demands weakened worker safety and environmental protection standards is reprehensible. From a moral standpoint, no elected member of Congress should make an argument for endangering their own constituents without irrefutable evidence of what makes such an evil so necessary. It would seem, however, that your definition of “irrefutable evidence” includes whatever falls from the mouths of business executives and corporate lobbyists paid to pad the bottom line. We disagree.

For example, the National Association of Manufacturers responded to your request for marching orders by naming OHSA consultations as “high-priority regulations that can cost manufacturing jobs.” Not to nitpick, but OSHA consultations are free services provided by OSHA—or a state OSHA program—that identify potential hazards before they happen. This is a win-win that creates both safer and less expensive work environments. As workers, we are curious as to exactly how jobs are created by eliminating a free service that saves employers money and reduces workplace injury.

Another example would be the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association’s position that Clean Air Act controls stand in the way of economic recovery. To this, a spokesman from the Environmental Defense Fund pointed out that these standards grant companies “the lead time and certainty to invest and bring products to the market and actually create jobs.” Again, as workers, we question your desire to attack a program that targets the depressed consumer demand and uncertainty at the heart of our current crisis.

In conclusion, your letter-writing escapade amounts to nothing more than a partisan sideshow. In reality, the workplace safety regulations you demonize don’t kill jobs; they keep jobs from killing people. The environmental standards in your crosshairs aren’t damaging recovery; they’re keeping California a great place to live. As actual residents, we hope you come to your senses and explore other, more effective, less ideologically-driven solutions. If you’re interested to hear about some, feel free to drop us a line. We know how much you love writing letters.