This edition of the Revolving Door Project newsletter was originally published on our Substack. View and subscribe here.
With the signing of the budget reconciliation deal this week, it’s time to give credit where credit is due to Chuck Schumer and Joe Manchin who, in a backroom deal, pulled off what was once unimaginable for 21st century Democrats: getting something done. Of course Biden lifted a hand to sign the bill into law, but what now? As climate activists weigh the outside cost of opening vast swaths of public land for new fossil fuel extraction, the quiet of Biden’s federal agencies is highlighted by the cacophony of the ongoing reconciliation day parade.
Where murmurs emerge, so too does doubt. At the Department of Transportation which has long attempted to run down the clock on choosing sides between draconian barons of interstate travel and the workers powering their machines, the good mayor Pete has shown a flickering of interest in actually imposing fines on airlines that fail to reimburse customers for increasing ineptitude. Speaking on Morning Joe last week, Secretary of Transportation Buttigieg told America,
“When the right thing to do is to roll up our sleeves and bring the airlines to the table and work with them, I prefer to do that, but we’re also going to use our enforcement powers to make sure passengers have a better experience… but remember at the end of the day, these are private businesses.”
Prioritizing “bringing corporations to the table” is a line for convention center executives pitching annual events, not for public servants entrusted with enforcing long standing laws designed to protect consumers from rapacious corporate elites. The fact that Pete’s last minute hedge was a response to sycophantic muppet Joe Scarborough calling out DOT’s regulatory failures does not bode well for travelers looking to get where they’re going, or for midterm weary politicians seeking a path to address myriad transportation woes from congested streets to creaking airlines.
As Bill McGee, senior fellow for aviation at the American Economic Liberties Project told Travel Weekly “Quite frankly, on the enforcement side, the DOT under Buttigieg has been a tremendous disappointment…We are yet to see as much as a $1 fine on any U.S. airline for refunds in the last two and a half years…How long does it take to conduct this investigation?”
While the Department of Transportation has moved to gently reign in corporations through the painstakingly slow rule making process, other agencies have made more progress. At the Food and Drug Administration a new rule was finalized this week that establishes a new category of over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids, enabling consumers with perceived mild to moderate hearing impairment to purchase hearing aids directly from stores or online retailers without the need for a medical exam, prescription, or a fitting adjustment by an audiologist. This should reduce cost and increase uptake, improving the quality of life of hundreds of thousands or more Americans.
And while rulemaking is a powerful tool for establishing precedents with wide ranging potential to hit back at soaring inflation and consumer malcontent, there’s no reason Biden’s Cabinet can’t simultaneously strike out at the corporations responsible for turning a quick buck on the backs of the voters Biden and his staff of presidential hopefuls will soon rely on.
Nonetheless, as the two wings of Biden’s cabinet, progressive and corporatist, continue to tug of war in the muck of Washington, there remains a cause that ought to unite both sides: ridding the federal government of Trump political appointees. As a report from our Toni Aguilar Rosenthal featured in Raw Story details, Trump hold-overs are wreaking havoc across the federal government, playing a continued role in covering up Donald Trump’s alleged crimes:
“Donald Trump has been out of the White House for more than a year and a half, but officials he installed continue to dictate policy, insulate bad actors from scrutiny, and otherwise degrade the pillars of our democracy. Biden has every right to remove dozens of these characters from their positions of power, but he must finally choose to. We cannot wait until the next constitutional crisis – and the apparent flurry of destroyed evidence that accompanied the last one – to begin acting on the dangers these figures pose to the public.”
From Christopher Wray at FBI, to DHS watchdog Joseph Cuffari, the moles of the Trump administration are burrowing away from the light, and after November, they’ll have even more cover to do damage. Now is the time for Biden to walk and chew gum at the same time, mobilizing the vast powers of his federal cabinet, while simultaneously removing the bad actors seeking to destroy it.
Want more? Check out some of the pieces that we have published or contributed research or thoughts to in the last week: