“Midnight Regulations” Threaten Decades of Progressive Policies

In his waning days as President of the United States, George W. Bush seems something of a walking contradiction. On the one hand he is the lame duck. The nation seems poised on the continuing words of President-elect Barak Obama as he names his cabinet appointees and uses press conferences to begin laying out a plan to deal with the current economic crisis. Bush is being very cooperative, it seems, during the transition period and at the same time it is quite clear that the world is done with Mr. Bush as evidenced from a November G20 meeting at which a hand shake with Mr. Bush seemed to be more like asking for a communicable disease. On the other hand, Bush is acting like anything but a lame duck.

A midnight regulation is a law that is put into effect by a President in the last few months of their term in office, often referred to as the lame duck period. Bush did not invent the midnight regulation by any means. The term goes back as far as John Adams who appointed last minute judges before leaving office. More recently Carter, Regan, Bush Sr., and Clinton have all used them. In fact, Bill Clinton pushed through more last minute laws than any other President in U.S. history (source) so this is certainly not a traditionally partisan issue by any means. There is a well established legal precedent for such last minute laws, so there is nothing wrong with what Bush is doing from a general legal point of view. The trouble comes with a look at some of the specific regulations that Bush is seeking to enact as he leaves Washington, thankfully for good.

One such law seeks to roll back years of protection for endangered species that has been developed through the endangered species act. Bush’s law will essentially allow federal agencies to ignore the research of scientists when it comes to the impact that regulation, or deregulation, will have on the environment and on the endangered species that live in areas under regulatory question. The effect will be that regulators will be allowed to approve mining, logging, and road construction projects without any consideration for the environmental impacts that these projects will have (source).

This is indicative of the conservative policy of environmental degradation through corporate deregulation. It is indicative of the religious right’s policy of attacking the validity of scientific research in favor of a politics based on static and outdated modes of belief that cannot be tested or verified, beliefs that place man atop a cosmic food chain that seeks to justify using and abusing the planet for our own comfort and financial gain regardless of the potential or already realized consequences. It is a philosophy of people who would rather pay cheaper prices than protect our world. Lower taxes, lower costs of production, a quicker route home after a long day’s work, lower enegery costs, more money in the pockets of corporate America, these things are more valuable it seems than the health and viability of the only planet we have to call home. What does this say about humanity? Everywhere we tred, it seems, we leave in our wake a path of destruction, like a cancer eating away at the organs of the human body, so do we eat away the health of this planet and doom it to an eventual and painful death.


Bush is also enacting a number of other laws related to rolling back environmental regulations. These laws would permit gas and oil drilling on public lands, and roll back both the Clean Air Act and The Clean Water Act by permitting increased dumping of pollutants into streams and into the air in our national parks and forests (source). These anti-environment laws may even go so far as to create a serious public health threat as Bush is seeking to relax laws on uranium mining near the Grand Canyon, which poses the serious threat of poisoning the Colorado river, a source of drinking water for a large portion of the western United States (source).

So you are not an environmentalist? Well Bush’s last minute laws go far beyond rolling back environmental protections. He is trying to make it more difficult for you to take family or medical leave from your job. He is trying to make it easier for local law enforcement agencies to collect and disseminate information about you regardless of whether or not you have committed a crime. He is trying to reduce the number of outpatient services that Medicare will pay for (sorry poor people). He is trying to roll back child labor laws. He is trying to allow your family planning to be dictated by the morality of individual healthcare workers and he is trying to define many methods of birth control as abortion. He is trying to roll back the Americans with Disabilities Act by weakening sections mandating accessibility to state and federal facilities and weakening the enforcement of the ADA in general (source).

Do you still need convincing that what Bush is doing is anything but harmful to our country? There is more. I could on. Do you care about being protected from harmful ingredients put into to your medicine by pharmaceutical companies? Bush is trying to protect them from you, making it more difficult for you to fight against these companies if their products harm you. A new law would essentially protect companies from being liable if their drugs hurt you (source). In fact, he is only proving a survey that states 84% of Americans think that pharmaceutical companies have too much influence over the government agencies that are tasked with job of regulating those companies (source).

It seems the point is made. Yes, Presidents use their lame duck period in order to push through last minute laws that they failed to convince Congress to pass or that maybe they just did not have time to take care of over the course of their term as President. However, the laws that Bush is pushing through, at least most of them, seem to be nothing more than last minute handouts to corporate cronies, handouts that will benefit the pocket books of a few while at the same time further degrading the environment, workplace safety and consumer protection, healthcare benefits, and civil rights. It is a last stitch effort to push our nation closer to corporate fascism in the face of a new and more liberal incoming administration. It is an attempt to tie the hands of the incoming administration and make it more difficult to fight against injustice and the corporate take over of our nation’s government. As if Bush has not done enough damage to our country and our country’s reputation in the world over the last eight years. It seems he refuses to leave office without dragging us all even further down into the endless abyss of conservatism.

It is a symptom of the disease that has infected our nation. It is a symptom of the injustice that corporate America has inflicted upon the world. It is time to stop using Band-Aids. It is time to end waste and destruction, inequality, and legally sanctioned inequity and disparity. It is time to stop the spread of the socio-political cancer that has infected this world. It is time to develop a cure.


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