The regulatory agencies still have not entirely regained the momentum lost in the Reagan administration, when GOP foxes were appointed to guard the henhouses of government and feasted on chicken dinner for the next 12 years.
Of course, Donald Trump has trumped even The Great Deregulator, offering the Department of Education to Betsy DeVos, who wishes to dismantle public education via white-flight vouchers; the Environmental Protection Agency to Scott Pruitt, a climate-change denier; the Department of Labor to fast-food tycoon Andy Puzder, who has agitated against a higher minimum wage; and the Department of Energy to Rick Perry, who campaigned on disbanding it.
It's a conservative wet dream and a societal nightmare. But even among those ongoing catastrophes, the Federal Trade Commission will stand out. Because Trump personally violates the most fundamental rules for consumer protection almost every day.
For starters, of course, he is a pathological liar. If he were Procter & Gamble selling soap instead of a demagogue selling fear, he would be tied up in enforcement actions for all eternity.
“Let me tell you: the miners in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, which was so great to me last week and Ohio and all over, they're going to start to work again, believe me.”
No, I don't believe you, because it isn't true. Even if there were a growing market for coal (which there is not and never will be again because of uncompetitive financial and environmental costs), the jobs disappeared decades ago, when strip mining replaced subterranean mining. It was the emptiest of promises and a naked lie, but Appalachia bought his goods.
Voters equally bought his angry-sounding tirades about China's trade cheating and U.S. corporate offshore manufacturing when he used Chinese steel in his own developments and manufactured his Trump apparel in China. What the FTC calls this sort of behavior is “consumer deception.”
Then there is his sordid history of actual consumer fraud. Trump University was a scheme built on a foundation of fabrication, not least of which the guaranty that Trump “handpicked” the instructors who would teach enrollees the secrets of real estate. In a 2012 deposition in the fraud case against him, Trump could not identify a single instructor. That's but one reason the man who “never settles” paid $25 million to get the lawsuit behind him.
Sad! And illegal.
One area in which the FTC has been active in the past 8 years is the regulation of commercial endorsement on social media. It has cracked down on celebrity tweets that are undisclosed or insufficiently disclosed as paid endorsements. Now, there is more than one way to be paid. Quid pro quo is not measured only in cash money. (Although, you know, sometimes unlawful cash contributions from foundations do work wonders to make Florida criminal fraud allegations -- like Trump U. tuition money -- just disappear into nothingness.) This can express itself in many ways, from sudden reversals in foreign policy regarding Russian tyrants to a sudden love of the outdoors for a man who never stepped on earthly soil unless between tee and green.
Donald J. Trump Thank you to Linda Bean of L.L.Bean for your great support and courage. People will support you even more now. Buy L.L.Bean. @LBPerfectMaine
It is, of course, highly irregular and probably unprecedented for a president to explicitly endorse a business. But it's not as though Bean were a vocal Trump booster who had donated a fortune to his campaign.
Oh, wait. Yes, she was. Yet somehow Trump did not label his bizarre tweet as a paid endorsement. Warner Bros. and Lord & Taylor did the same thing, and got their ears boxed for their omission.
So, no, there is no earthly reason for Edith Ramirez to remain in the FTC henhouse. To paraphrase Shakespeare very slightly: “When good manners shall lie in one or two men's hands and they unwashed too, ‘tis a fowl thing.”