Uh, OK: The Republican Running for Governor of Washington State Wants to Regulate Regulations

Yesterday morning, we woke up to great news: household income in the United States has finally begun to rise, after eight years of stagnation. Reuters reports:

The Census Bureau said on Tuesday that median household income surged 5.2 percent last year to $56,500, the highest since 2007, in large part due to solid employment gains. The jump was the biggest since record keeping began in 1968.

But that’s not all: the poverty rate saw its largest drop since 1968, among other assorted pieces of good news. And today we learned that Seattle’s jobless rate is now lower than it’s been in eight years.

Of course there’s more work to be done—housing costs are out of control, we have decades of inequality to overcome, and the fact that we still have as much poverty as we do in the 21st century is ridiculous—but the numbers indicate that we are finally, eight years after the financial collapse, on the right track. More people, and not just the top one percent, are seeing more income.

This is a man who can appeal to audiences of dozens on Facebook Live. (Bill Bryant's Twitter profile photo.)

This is a man who can appeal to audiences of dozens on Facebook Live. (Bill Bryant’s Twitter profile photo.)

So yesterday was kind of a rough day for Washington state Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Bryant to deliver a jobs speech. But that’s what he did, and it was broadcast on Facebook live to an audience of somewhere between two and three dozen people. I was one of those viewers. Between frequent drops in the streaming service and the crappy sound quality of the stream, I was able to discern that Bryant offered a six-point plan to improve jobs in Washington state. And if you’ve been paying attention to any Republican gubernatorial candidate in Washington state over the last four decades, you know what it contained.

As Nick Cassella recapped this morning in Daily Clips, the three demands of candidates who promote trickle down economics are as follows:

1. Tax cuts for the rich.

2. Deregulation for the powerful.

3. Wage suppression for everyone else.

And that’s exactly what Bryant offered. Aside from some bizarre side-rants, including a call to add lanes to our congested highways and a weird waffle on whether we need public transit or not, he mostly stuck to the trickle down script. Bryant railed against Initiative 1433, the initiative that will increase Washington state’s minimum wage to $13.50 (and which will also provide paid sick leave to workers). He railed against taxes, calling them business killers. And he really, really hates regulations.

Bryant has famously and repeatedly called for a “moratorium on all new regulations,” and he renewed that call in this speech. He argued that “regulations accumulate one on top of the other,” creating a morass. Of course, a moratorium on regulations is short-sighted and dumb. Don’t we want government to be able to adapt to new developments? What happens if there’s an emergency, or if a regulation needs reworking during the moratorium period? Regulations save lives. They protect us from food poisoning. They’ve kept our great statewide experiment in marijuana legalization safe and sane. Unless Bryant is a strict libertarian, he has to agree that some regulations are important.

So how does Bryant separate the supposedly good regulations from the supposedly bad ones? As Fox Q13 explains, during this moratorium, a theoretical Governor Bryant “would require agencies to define objectives and success of current regulations and to determine whether they are still working or necessary.” In other words he would, uh, regulate the regulations, causing the same agencies that create regulations to justify those regulations, in what sounds like a Trickle Down American Idol. Only the strongest regulations get to live!

But the truth is, there’s already a process to review regulations in place. This overdramatic attempt to examine every single regulation in the state would be an immense waste of time and taxpayer money. It’s not a serious proposal. Why not just focus on the regulations that Bryant feels need a serious review? Because that wouldn’t be as flashy as a moratorium and a total review. And Bryant, in case you can’t tell, is a decidedly un-flashy candidate who needs to capture voter attention if he’s going to make any kind of a dent in this race.

Really, as someone who had a lot of trouble watching Bryant’s speech yesterday (the man has all the charisma of a bag full of silt) I can understand that need. Bryant is clearly flailing. He knows that the trickle down agenda pushed by Paul Ryan doesn’t work. He got hammered for months because he wouldn’t say if he supported Trump or not, and then he finally came out against Trump, which undoubtedly cost him some ardent Republican supporters in the eastern part of the state. He’s got to do something.

But this moratorium on regulations just isn’t the answer. Bryant is facing an improving economic climate by pushing the same policies that got us into this mess. Now is the time for leadership: if he really wanted to get the attention for voters, he’d come up with a conservative economic plan that didn’t embrace the failed trickle down agenda of the last forty years. But Bryant apparently lacks that essential something—maybe it’s courage, maybe it’s intellect, maybe it’s creativity—to reposition himself.  This is a shame. I’m a fan of Jay Inslee—I think he understands the economy, and I love the way he leads on environmental issues—but this state would be better off if we had two strong choices on the ballot this fall. Unfortunately, Bryant just isn’t a strong choice.

Paul Constant

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