Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Safety Just Isn’t Safe Any Longer

Egged on by well heeled lobbyists hired by American business interests, the Republican Luddites in the House have pushed through relatively unnoticed HR 4078 – a 92 page bill that threatens to grind to a screeching halt all the progress of the last 25 years in enhancing the safety of the jobs we go to, the cars we drive, the toys our children play with, the medicine we take, the food we eat, the water we drink, and even the air we breathe. Euphemistically entitled the “Red Tape Reduction and Small Business Job Creation Act,” the legislation bars all federal regulatory agencies from promulgating any significant new safety rules from the date of passage until the Secretary of Labor certifies that unemployment is below 6.0%. This has to be one of the most stupid bills ever passed by either house of Congress.

Although economists of every stripe have long since debunked the notion that federal safety rules hamper job creation, Republican politicians cling to that mantra. Truth is, Congress is powerless to eliminate the social costs of safety. All Congress can do – and this bill does it in spades – is shift those costs from a few pennies each paid by every citizen back to the shoulders of those few and nearly invisible families affected by the tragedy of hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in medical bills, lost income, and often permanent disability suffered when unsafe jobs, cars, toys, medicine, food or water sicken, injure or kill a family member. Republicans want, for reasons known only to the lobbyists from whom they receive their campaign donations, to take us back to the days at the beginning of the industrial revolution when it was a worker’s tough luck if an on the job injury cost him or her an arm, leg, lung or paralysis, and left his or her family destitute as a result. They would rather have a citizenry of amputees, invalids and cripples on the public dole than an additional 2% of able bodied unemployed workers.

If this legislation makes sense, it is only the political sense of pandering to a business constituency at the expense of Americans of all stations in life. There is not a shred of economic sense, social justice sense, or even common sense in this bill. Each and every one of us has benefitted from the advances in the safety and healthfulness of our jobs, cars, toys, medicines, food, water and air produced by the last quarter century or more of federal safety rules. The only ones who would benefit from passage of this horrible bill in the Senate are Republicans who collect huge campaign funds and Super Pac donations from special interest business lobbyists when they vote in favor of this law.

Pray for us all that the Senate leaves this piece of miserable and misery inducing legislation on the table in a darkened committee room where it belongs. Pray even harder that President Obama has the guts to veto it if it should ever reach the Oval Office.

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