You may love President Donald Trump or you may hate him. But there’s one thing you can’t deny: Trump and the Republican Congress have either cut or proposed to cut funding and regulations that were originally put in place to benefit regular Americans.
It can certainly be argued that some of these programs, services and regulations were inefficient and deserved to end up on the chopping block. It might also be argued that our government can’t afford to fund these initiatives, that the money is better spent on defense or that Uncle Sam shouldn’t be involved in these areas.
But even now — early in the Trump presidency — consumers are already feeling the pain.
Following is a partial list of specific changes already made, in process or proposed that will affect millions of Americans
1. He wants to slash funding for consumer-friendly federal programs
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On March 16, Trump revealed his proposed budget. Among the many agencies affected, he proposed slashing funding to the Environmental Protection Agency by 31 percent, the State Department by 28 percent, Health and Human Services by 18 percent, Departments of Labor and Agriculture by 21 percent each, Department of Education by 14 percent, Department of Transportation by 13 percent and Department of the Interior by 12 percent.
While it may be true these agencies are bloated, it’s also true they fund many consumer-friendly programs that could be radically reduced or eliminated. The list of proposed cuts includes the Legal Services Corporation, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Institutes of Health, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, job training programs, Meals on Wheels (partially funded through community development block grants), the Weatherization Assistance Program and many more.
2. He wants to get rid of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
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If the average American consumer has a friend in government, it’s the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Now in its sixth year, the CFPB has returned about $12 billion to American consumers, including students, borrowers, service people, credit users and more. Here’s how they describe themselves in their most recent annual report:
The premise that lies at the very heart of our mission is that consumers should have someone standing on their side to see that they are treated fairly in the financial marketplace. From July 21, 2011, through September 30, 2016, the CFPB has handled over 1 million consumer complaints, including complaints on credit reporting, debt collection, money transfers, bank accounts and services, credit cards, mortgages, vehicle loans, payday loans, student loans, and certain other consumer financial products or services, including prepaid cards, debt settlement services, credit repair services, and pawn and title loans.
Along with many of his Republican colleagues, Trump wants this agency gutted.
This article will tell you more about the CFPB, what it does and how you can harness it when you feel you’ve been wronged. Use it while you can.
3. He wants to slash government-funded climate change research
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The recently announced Trump budget proposal reduces the budget for the EPA by 30 percent. From the New York Times:
The budget calls for the elimination of about 3,200 staff positions — over 20 percent of the department. It would also eliminate all funding for enactment of the Clean Power Plan, the regulations designed to curb greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. It would also discontinue funding for climate change research and international climate change programs.
Consumers have historically counted on the government to keep them safe from potentially cataclysmic events like global warming, a reality now accepted by the scientific community, but called a hoax by Trump on numerous occasions.
4. He will allow the collection and sale of your personal information
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A recently passed Senate resolution voids a rule that the Federal Communications Commission established last year to protect your online privacy. When this legislation reaches Trump’s desk, he’s expected to sign it.
As we recently explained, under the rule, internet service providers, or ISPs — think Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, etc. — would have to ask your permission to collect and sell your information. Now they’ll be able to collect and sell it without your knowledge or consent.
Here’s how the Electronic Frontier Foundation summarizes the situation:
“If the bill is signed into law … big internet providers will be given new powers to harvest your personal information in extraordinarily creepy ways. They will watch your every action online and create highly personalized and sensitive profiles for the highest bidder. All without your consent.”
There are those who dispute the impact of this change. Here’s a response from the FCC chairman saying your privacy will be enhanced by the recent resolution, not weakened.
5. He wants to roll back net neutrality
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In March, the Trump administration said it would soon be getting rid of net neutrality rules put in place by the Obama administration in 2015.
What’s net neutrality? You can read more about it here, but here’s a brief explanation.
Internet service providers, such as Comcast, AT&T or Verizon, are called “gatekeepers” because before any traffic reaches their subscribers, it has to first travel through their network. And because they control the network, they could be tempted to slow down — or even block — the content of their competitors. Or they could make more money by charging content providers for faster downloads.
In other words, even though ISPs are already charging consumers for access to the internet, if they decide the content we want to see doesn’t make them enough money, they can make it harder for us to see it. For example, Comcast might make it faster for us to stream their own pay-per-view movies rather than those of their competitors, like Netflix.
Rolling back these rules is great for broadband providers, which is why they spent millions lobbying Congress to oppose the net neutrality rules. But for consumers? It’s easy to see how this could cost them and hard to see how they could benefit.
6. He’s reversed environmental protections
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On March 28, Trump visited the EPA to sign an executive order rolling back key components of the Obama administration’s environmental protection rules. From the Washington Post:
The far-reaching order he unveiled Tuesday instructs federal regulators to rewrite key Obama-era rules curbing U.S. carbon emissions — namely the Clean Power Plan, which was intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the nation’s electric plants. It also seeks to lift a moratorium on federal coal leasing and remove the requirement that federal officials consider the impact of climate change when making decisions.
Trump signed the order surrounded by coal miners, a group he’s insisted will benefit from rolling back environmental protection regulations. But even coal miners know their primary problem isn’t regulation; it’s that, thanks to fracking, natural gas is now cheaper than coal.
7. He’s making immigration more difficult
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Few would suggest that allowing illegal immigration is a good idea. But immigrants, illegal and otherwise, provide cheap labor. Removing them from the American workforce could result in higher prices for everything from housing to milk. According to a 2015 press release from the National Milk Producers Federation, losing immigrant workers on dairy farms would nearly double retail milk prices.
Tighter immigration rules, along with outright bans, are also a concern for another important sector of our economy: technology. From Reuters:
The immigration issue is still unfolding, but the broader and potentially more injurious effects could include a blow to the nation’s competitiveness in technology, hindering job growth and sending more capital overseas to the detriment of the American economy.
This is why nearly 100 tech companies recently joined forces to fight Trump’s travel ban. The executive order, the latest version which was put on hold by a federal judge in March, temporarily blocks visas for citizens of six Muslim-majority countries and bars refugees from those nations.
8. He stopped the Fiduciary Rule from going into effect
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As we explained in a story last year, financial advisers who receive fees or other compensation are currently legally allowed to steer a client to an investment product that may not result in the highest return for the client, but offers a higher commission to the adviser.
Doesn’t sound very consumer friendly, does it? The Department of Labor didn’t think so either. That’s why it’s been working for years to force Wall Street to offer honest advice to Main Street. And the department would have succeeded if not for Trump.
In April 2017, something called the Fiduciary Rule was scheduled to go into effect. It would have required advisers to put their clients’ interests before their own, at least when dealing with retirement accounts.
As you might imagine, Wall Street hates the idea of being forced to provide honest advice to retirement investors.
But Wall Street won a reprieve. On Feb. 3, Trump ordered the Department of Labor to review the rule to see if it should be allowed to go into effect.
In a press release shortly after Trump’s order, AARP Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond said, “It is time that all Americans can count on retirement investment advice that is in their best interest, not the interest of Wall Street. Unfortunately, for many Americans, today’s executive order means they will continue to get conflicted financial advice that costs more and reduces what they are able to save for retirement.”
In the first week of April, Trump delayed implementation of the rule by 60 days.
9. His plans could strip millions of affordable health care
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From an interview then-President-elect Trump had with the Washington Post on Jan. 15:
“We’re going to have insurance for everybody,” Trump said. “There was a philosophy in some circles that if you can’t pay for it, you don’t get it. That’s not going to happen with us.” People covered under the law “can expect to have great health care. It will be in a much simplified form. Much less expensive and much better.”
On March 6, Trump’s plan for replacing Obamacare was unveiled. Not only did the bill not provide “insurance for everybody,” according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), but it also would result in 14 million Americans losing their existing coverage by 2018 and 24 million by 2026.
Since the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that Americans buy health insurance would be repealed, some of those leaving the system would do so voluntarily. But many would be forced out by higher premiums, lower subsidies and scaled-back Medicaid.
You can read the CBO report here.
The proposed bill never made it to a vote, because some Republicans thought it didn’t go far enough. But Trump and Congress are still working on repealing Obamacare.
11. He’s scaring off tourists and potential workers
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In January, Trump issued an executive order to ban citizens from seven majority-Muslim countries, later reduced in a revised order to six, from coming to the United States for any reason.
When you denigrate and/or outright ban people from one country, you may start getting fewer visitors from all countries. If you live in a place that depends on tourism for survival, that’s a big deal. From this AOL article:
According to Tourism Economics. about 4.3 million fewer international travelers will visit the U.S. this year because of the bans, a revenue loss of $7.4 billion. Another 6.3 million visitors and $10.8 billion that they would have spent will be lost in 2018.
The proposed travel ban will also affect those who want to come to our country to work. In February, six American tech giants, including Apple, Google, Facebook and others filed a legal brief supporting those who wanted the ban overturned. From that brief:
The Order effects a sudden shift in the rules governing entry into the United States, and is inflicting substantial harm on U.S. companies. It hinders the ability of American companies to attract great talent; increases costs imposed on business; makes it more difficult for American firms to compete in the international marketplace; and gives global enterprises a new, significant incentive to build operations — and hire new employees — outside the United States.
11. He prevented mortgages from getting cheaper
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Trump rolled back a planned Federal Housing Administration policy that would have reduced the insurance premiums homeowners pay monthly on FHA-backed mortgages.
The Los Angeles Times reported that the initiative could have saved homeowners hundreds of dollars annually on mortgage insurance, which is required with FHA-backed loans.
But the new Trump administration killed the planned fee cut on Jan. 20, just a week after the Obama administration had first announced the rule. It was supposed to take effect on Jan. 27.
According to the Times, the Trump administration indefinitely suspended the pending FHA insurance rate cut just an hour after Trump was sworn in as president. It was literally the first thing he did.
12. He raised the penalty for student loan late payments
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Student loan borrowers are being crushed by debt.
The Consumer Federation of America released an analysis showing that more than a million student loans were in default in 2016, and the default rate increased 14 percent from 2015 to 2016.
When student borrowers default, collection agencies attempt to collect the delinquent payments. But they can also try to collect something else: Fees as high as 16 percent of the entire loan can be tacked on.
Under Obama administration rules, delinquent student loan borrowers didn’t have to pay collection fees, provided they entered into a repayment plan within 60 days of defaulting on their loan and stuck with the plan.
On March 16, the Department of Education reversed that break for student borrowers. Now, whether or not they try to rehabilitate their loan, they can still be charged collection fees, making the loan that much harder to repay.
Which of these changes are affecting you, or will? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.