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Welcome to the kleptocracy: Public Citizen reports that under Trump, fines levied against corporate lawbreakers have nosedived. In both the EPA, until recently headed by Scott Pruitt, and the Justice Department, headed by Jeff Sessions, corporate fines dropped ninety percent or more from Obama’s last year in office.

Penalties dropped at the Justice Department by 90 percent, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission by 80 percent and the Securities and Exchange Commission by 68 percent.

The largest drop was at the Environmental Protection Agency, formerly led by Scott Pruitt, where overall penalties dropped by 94 percent, from nearly $24 billion in President Barack Obama’s last year in office to $1.5 billion. Penalties at the Federal Communications Commission dropped overall by 85 percent.

Translation: It’s now 90 percent less expensive for a large company to willingly break U.S. law and pay a token penalty when or if they’re caught. Under Trump, lawbreaking has become a far more efficient corporate policy choice.

There’s no innocuous explanation for the sudden plummet. Corporate violators didn’t suddenly stop violating when Donald Trump came to power, and the crimes they committed didn’t suddenly decrease in severity from previous years. Trump administration officials simply settled cases for, at least under Pruitt and Sessions, ten percent of the fines leveled in the previous administration. That’s a policy move (or, possibly, a personal one).

This, then, is the kleptocracy that the Republicans planned all along—and in fact angrily demanded, in public speeches. Massive tax cuts for the rich at the expense of public programs, a reworking of our national laws to legalize previously barred behavior, and a hollowing-out of enforcement mechanisms so that even when large corporations willfully break the laws that do exist, they receive fines so minimal as to not discourage them from doing it again.

It’s not quite the Russia model of a small set of oligarchs vacuuming up all the nation’s wealth and being treated to state protection for doing so, so long as they share the proceeds, but it is … getting there. Donate to Republicans, wealthy America, and the nation’s laws will no longer fully apply to you. We’ll make very, very sure of it.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.


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