From Healthcare To Financial Protection: How Will The Trump White House Affect Consumers?

Image courtesy of Chris Wilson

Elections always bring change; some more so than others. With yesterday’s results in the box and tallied, we now know that we are expecting not only a Trump administration next January, but also to have both houses of Congress and the White House all aligned under control of the same political party. That means that for at least two years, until the next midterm elections, the party in charge — in this case, the Republicans — has the ability to push through changes to policy and law, and we can expect it to do so.

It almost goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway: Promises and declarations made during a campaign and election season are absolutely no guarantee of future action. Politics and governance are a bit messy even at the best of times, and outright chaotic at the worst. Nothing is guaranteed. But based on public, on-the-record statements from the people whose terms in office were secured last night, we can have an idea in which directions we might expect policy to move.

Consumerist (and our parent company) is an explicitly non-partisan organization. We do not support or reject candidates or parties for any office, but we do advocate for consumers’ rights. It’s our whole purpose: We like policies that help consumers, and we don’t like policies that hurt or that fail to help consumers. So with that in mind, here is a short list of some of our expectations and concerns.


Trump has explicitly promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — colloquially, Obamacare — the first chance he gets, and Congress is likely to act swiftly to do so. The House and Senate have both voted several times in the past to repeal the ACA in full, but the bills were consistently (and predictably) vetoed by President Obama. After January, that veto will no longer exist.

Trump’s full position paper on health care [PDF] promises that “on day one of the Trump Administration, we will ask Congress to immediately deliver a full repeal of Obamacare.”

In its place, Trump proposes modifying other laws to permit the sale of health insurance across state lines, change the way health insurance premiums are deducted from income taxes, and promoting Health Savings Accounts, which he proposes to make part of the individual estate, non-taxable, and inheritable (i.e. after an elderly parent dies, you can have their HSA money, either tax-free or minimally taxed).

There may also be some action taken with regard to prescription drug pricing. In the last year, soaring medication costs — in particular, how much various government agencies paid for certain drugs — became a rare issue that drew concern from both political parties.

Trump has made statements during the campaign regarding the high costs of medication and allowing Medicaid to negotiate with drugmakers, but unlike Clinton, Trump has yet to spell out any plans for reform.

Consumer Finance

Trump has said that one of his highest priorities is to “get rid of Dodd-Frank,” saying it “has made it impossible for bankers to function.” That’s the post-2008-crisis banking reform bill that President Obama signed into law in 2010, and that created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

As the Wall Street Journal reports, despite repeatedly challenging Dodd-Frank, Trump’s official economic platform makes no mention of the agency. The overall Republican Party platform, however, does call for both repealing Dodd-Frank and abolishing the CFPB.

Even if the CFPB is not itself dismantled, a recent federal appeals court ruling concluded that the Bureau’s structure is unconstitutional because the President does not have the authority to remove the CFPB’s sole Director without cause.

If that ruling is upheld, that means Trump can — and likely will — dismiss and replace CFPB Director Richard Cordray long before Cordray’s five-year term ends in mid-2018.

Trump has also not taken a clear position on student debt. The Wall Street Journal reports that in one of his books, Trump has said that the federal government “can’t forgive [student] loans,” and one of his campaign co-chairs suggested that the federal government should back off from student lending and instead hand even more of it over to private banks and lenders.

Tech, Telecom, and Privacy

Trump’s remarks about other tech policy have been sparse. In 2014 he tweeted against the White House’s support for Net Neutrality, saying, “Obama’s attack on the internet is another top down power grab. Net neutrality is the Fairness Doctrine. Will target conservative media.” Under new leadership, FCC could choose again to undertake the rule-making process with regards to the Open Internet and come to a different conclusion the second time.

Trump is one of the many who has spoken against the pending merger of AT&T and Time Warner. At the time it was announced, he denounced it, saying if in office he would reject it “because it’s too much concentration of power in the hands of too few.”

The office of the President does not approve, challenge, or reject mergers, but the executive does get to nominate many of the people at the Department of Justice, FTC, and FCC who do have that authority.

Trump has also spoken out against the now five-year-old merger of Comcast with NBCUniversal, saying it should never have been approved in the first place

On encryption, Trump appears to be of the opinion that law enforcement should be able to access anything (or everything). When Apple and the FBI were going back and forth over whether or how to break encryption on a terrorist suspect’s iPhone earlier this year, Trump came down strongly on the side of the FBI. “To think that Apple won’t allow us to get into her cellphone? Who do they think they are?” he said during a televised interview.

He added, “I agree 100% with the courts. In that case, we should open it up. I think security overall — we have to open it up,” and called doing so a matter of “common sense.”

Energy and Climate

The key piece of regulation in play is the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, which was announced in 2015 but subjected to immediate court challenge. (Consumers Union, the policy and mobilization arm of our parent company, Consumer Reports, strongly supports the Clean Power Plan.)

Trump has pledged to roll back any environmental regulations that interfere with American energy production, especially coal. “The Obama-Clinton war on coal has cost Michigan over 50,000 jobs,” he said in a policy speech. He has promised to create “millions” of new jobs in energy, particuarly “shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, plus hundreds of years in clean coal reserves,” by “rescind[ing] all job-destroying Obama executive actions.”

Food, Drug, Auto, and Product Safety

Trump has taken a strong stance against both existing and increasing regulation both in general and also, on occasion, specifically.

In an economic policy speech in Detroit in August, Trump promised that, “Upon taking office, I will issue a temporary moratorium on new agency regulations,” modeled on something VP-elect Mike Pence did as governor of Indiana.

Next, Trump said, “I will ask each and every federal agency to prepare a list of all of the regulations they impose on Americans which are not necessary, do not improve public safety, and which needlessly kill jobs. Those regulations will be eliminated.”

He also spoke to excess regulation hurting the auto industry in particular, saying that “motor vehicle manufacturing is one of the most heavily regulated industries in the country,” but without specifying which regulations he would work to reverse or overturn.

In September, the Trump campaign sent out a fact sheet promising to roll back food safety regulations and curtail the FDA if elected, but then deleted it from the campaign website shortly thereafter. Trump’s current stance on the FDA is unclear.

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