The Trump Administration’s attack on so-called “regulatory red tape” has had a less obvious complement: a failure to enforce important protections for workers, consumers, and the environment. In other words, this Administration has given too many companies a free pass to operate outside of the law. This effort has been lower profile in terms of policy change, but it has had real impacts on the lives of families around our country—especially in communities of color—which will be felt for generations to come. The next administration cannot focus on policy changes alone, but must take steps to rebuild the enforcement infrastructure of the federal government.
In this symposium, our authors bring a variety of perspectives to the challenge ahead. Jenny Yang and Cathy Ventrell-Monsees draw on their experiences from leadership at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to outline the bold steps required to rebuild the EEOC’s enforcement efforts and make them more proactive. Aaron Ament and Dan Zibel lay out a plan to build upon efforts that they helped launch in the Obama Administration’s Department of Education to better protect borrowers, particularly students of color, from racking up crushing debt from predatory, often for-profit institutions of higher education. Steven Chester charts a new path for the Environmental Protection Agency’s enforcement efforts, as informed by his own experiences and the experiences of other colleagues from that agency, career and political appointees alike. And Brian Galle outlines the steps that the Internal Revenue Service can take to improve the fairness, efficacy, and legitimacy of the tax system by reallocating its limited enforcement efforts away from taxpayers claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit and toward those who are likely to substantially underpay their taxes. Finally, as Deepak Bhargava and Alexander Hertel-Fernandez explain in their closing contribution, all of this can be done in a broader context of shifting enforcement resources away from targeting Black and Brown people, and instead toward ensuring that they receive the benefit of laws already on the books, building power in historically marginalized communities in the process.