Republican presidential candidate and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush gestures while speaking during a town hall event at a VFW hall in Norfolk, Va. on Aug. 28, 2015.
Photo by Jay Westcott/Reuters

Jeb takes aim at consumer safeguards at the worst possible time

Just this week, a federal judge sentenced a former owner of a Georgia peanut company “to 28 years in prison for his role in a recent salmonella outbreak.” The “cartoonishly evil” scheme to knowingly ship salmonella-tainted products nationwide made hundreds of Americans sick across 46 states and killed nine people.
As this prison sentence was coming down, Volkswagen was admitting that it “rigged U.S. emissions tests so it would appear that its diesel-powered cars were emitting fewer nitrogen oxides, which can contribute to ozone buildup and respiratory illness.”
Against this backdrop, Americans are receiving powerful reminders about the importance of regulations, safeguards, and consumer protections. But it’s also against this backdrop that Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush has made an important declaration: there are simply too many safeguards in place for American consumers.
GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush unveiled a plan Tuesday to roll back a number of controversial regulations from the Obama administration, ranging from environmental rules to financial reform laws.
During campaign events in Iowa, Bush threatened to repeal the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) controversial power plant rules, clean water rule, and coal ash rule.
According to the Bush campaign’s new policy paper, there’s a “regulatory crisis” that Jeb intends to rectify. Elect Bush president and he’ll go after Dodd-Frank financial-industry protections, EPA regulations on coal ash and carbon pollution, and even net neutrality rules from the FCC.
While many candidates look for new ways to sound populist, Jeb Bush is running on a counter-intuitive platform: he believes Washington is simply too mean to Wall Street and polluters, and Jeb intends to be their champion.
As for Bush’s opposition to net neutrality, I’m not altogether convinced he knows what the policy even means. In March, the Florida Republican went so far as to call net neutrality “one of the craziest ideas I’ve ever heard,” which still seems bizarre six months later.
In case anyone’s forgotten, let’s quickly recapImagine an online landscape in which your service provider had a package of preferred websites – customers could access those sites quickly and easily, and they would function as they’re supposed to. But the ISP also had websites with unfavorable status – when customers tried to access sites the service provider doesn’t like for whatever reason, maybe the sites would load slowly. Maybe consumers would have to pay more to access them. Maybe both. In some cases, it’s possible the sites might be blocked altogether because of a business disagreement.
For consumer advocates, this is a major problem. Service providers shouldn’t be in a position, the argument goes, to make website access easier or harder based on the ISP’s business decisions.
Net neutrality, championed by the Obama administration, creates a level playing field, prohibiting service providers from playing favorites.
Yes, obviously it’s an example of government regulation, but it’s regulation to protect consumers and encourage online innovation.
The Republican argument is that if service providers can start making it easier or harder for consumers to access websites based on the company’s business deals, it means entrepreneurs can “create economic growth.” You may struggle to access free online content you currently enjoy, and you may find that infuriating, but for the GOP, you’re supposed to take comfort in the fact that you’re “facilitating economic empowerment.”
And now this position, as odd as it may be, is a plank in Jeb Bush’s national platform.