Regulations: good for business
Masters of the repeated lying sound bite, the craven congressional Republicans are feasting on the health and safety of the American people with gleeful greed while making the corporate and trade association media swoon. “Job-killing regulations” exudes daily from the mouths of Speaker John Boehner, his Wall Street-licking sidekick Eric Cantor and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Then all the way down the line, the Republicans are on cue bellowing “job-killing regulations” must be revoked or stopped aborning over at OSHA (protecting workers), EPA (protecting clean air and water), FDA (safer drugs and food) and NHTSA (making your vehicle safer). Imagine how much more civil servants could do to accomplish the statutory missions of their respective agencies if they could get the Republicans and their corporate pay masters off their backs.
These same Republicans get in their cars with their children and put on their seat belts. Out of sight are the air bags ready to deprive them of their freedom to go through the windshield in a crash. Who makes those seat belts and air bags? Workers in the USA.
The jobs these regulations may be “killing” are those that would have swelled the funeral industry, or some jobs in the health-care and disability-care industry. On the other hand, by not being injured, workers stay on the job and do not drain the workers’ compensation funds or hamper the operations of their employer.
About 20 years ago, Professor Nicholas Ashford of MIT came to Washington and testified before Congress in great detail about how and where safety regulations create jobs and make the economy more efficient in avoiding the costs of preventable injuries and disease. He received a respectful hearing from members of the committee.
It is doubtful whether Messers Boehner, Cantor, McConnell and Dr. Coburn (senator from Oklahoma) are reading Professor Ashford these days, who just co-authored a book with Ralph P. Hall called “Technology, Globalization and Sustainable Development.”
The corporatist Republicans’ minds are made up; don’t bother them with the facts. But we must keep trying to dissolve the Big Lie.
In 2009 Professor David Hemenway published a stirring book titled “While You Were Sleeping: Success Stories in Injury and Violence Prevention,” which in clear language described the success stories of people, often with the support of a past, more enlightened Congress, made lives safer and healthier in the United States. Yes, life-saving, injury-preventing, disease-stopping regulations resulting in life-sustaining technology produced by American industry and workers.
Wake up, Democrats. Learn the political art of truthful repetition to counter the cruelest Republicans who ever crawled up Capitol Hill. You’ve got massive, documented materials to put the lie to the Republicans.
President Obama should set an example. For instance, on Sept. 2, President Obama fell for the regulation-costs-jobs lie. He said: “[I] have continued to underscore the importance of reducing regulatory burdens and regulatory uncertainty, particularly as our economy continues to recover.”
Pete Altman, from the Natural Resources Defense Council wrote:
“In reversing his administration’s previously strong support for ozone regulations to protect the health of American children, President Obama [in the words of one observer] drank the conservative Kool-Aid, and agreed that tightening ozone emission rules would have cost billions and hurt the economy. But clean air is very popular politically, and the EPA’s own studies show that a tighter standard could have created $17 billion in economic benefits.”
Earlier this month, Public Citizen issued a report about five regulations that spurred innovation and a higher quality of economic growth.
As one of the authors, Negah Mouzoon, wrote, “When federal agencies implement rules for efficiency, worker safety, or public health and welfare, companies need to reformulate their products and services to comply. And so begins good ol’ American competition. To comply with federal standards, companies need to invest in research and development, which often yields to new products and systems that both solve public policy problems and, often, boost business. The result? A brighter idea emerges.”
It is important to note that such regulations give companies lengthy lead times to comply and, under the daily sandpapering of corporate lobbyists, regulations issued lose much of their early industry-controlling reach.
Here are the report’s five innovation-spurring products or processes that at their outset encountered significant industry resistance and inflated estimates of complying with the regulations. Before that is, the companies came to their senses, responded and found that such changes were not just good for the people but for their own bottom line.
1. Protecting workers from poisonous vinyl chloride.
2. Reducing sulfur dioxide emissions.
3. Preventing ozone-layer-destroying CFC emissions from aerosols.
4. Improving the energy efficiency of home appliances.
5. Utilizing energy-efficient light bulbs.
For the full report, visit www.citizen.org/regulation-innovation.
Consumer advocate and former presidential candidate Ralph Nader grew up in Winsted and is a graduate of The Gilbert School.