Alex MacLean is one of America’s most famed and iconic aerial photographers. His perspective on human structures, from bodies sunbathing at the beach to complex, overlapping highway systems, always seems to hint at a larger symbolic meaning hidden in the mundane. By photographing from above, MacLean shows the sequences and patterns of human activity, including the scope of our impact on natural systems. His work reminds us of the law of proximity: the...read more
House Republicans Sacrifice Human Health For Alleged Job Creation
House Republicans Sacrifice Human Health For Alleged Job Creation
With July 2012 officially behind us, the U.S. jobs report for the month has economists and politicians concerned about the employment situation in America. And even though the economy added 163,000 jobs (economists had predicted only 100,000 jobs to be added for July,) the unemployment rate and the underemployment rate both crept slightly upwards. And with national elections coming up in three months, poor jobs numbers could be bad for our health.
If history is any indicator, Conservative politicians and think tanks will use last month’s poor jobs report in an attempt to provide massive giveaways to their friends in the dirty energy industry. They attempted the same thing after below-average job growth in May of this year, claiming that approval of the Keystone XL pipeline would be the job boon that Americans desperately need.
But Republicans in Washington didn’t wait for a bad jobs report before they started planning their dirty energy bonanza, but its likely they will use it as a catalyst to gain more support for their disastrous plans.
In mid June of this year, Republicans on the “House Energy Action Team” (HEAT) proposed a set of bills that would destroy many of the safeguards that are currently in place to protect our environment and our personal health in order to make things “easier” for businesses to create jobs without worrying about those pesky safety standards. What the package of legislation is really about is repaying HEAT members’ financiers from the dirty energy industry who stand to save a ton of cash by destroying regulations.
The legislation package would remove many current existing safeguards for environmental and public health until the unemployment rate drops below 6%, a rate that hasn’t been seen since July 2008, when it was 5.8%. Since that month four years ago, the rate has stayed consistently above 6%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
When I wrote about the legislative package back in June, I focused mainly on the ties to industry of the bills’ sponsors. Recently, the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards put together an analysis of the safeguards and regulations that the bills would removed if passed:
The House of Representatives will soon consider a radical bill proposed by Republican members: ‘‘Red Tape Reduction and Small Business Job Creation Act’’ (H.R. 4078). This bill is made up of provisions H.R. 4078, H.R. 4607, H.R. 3862, H.R. 373, H.R. 4377, H.R. 2308, and H.R. 1840 which would, in an unprecedented move halt all regulatory action on national safeguards that protect the health and safety of Americans and bolster the nation’s economy.
Combined, these provisions would halt or delay virtually ALL regulations and do absolutely nothing to stimulate the economy or new job opportunities. They would shut down crucial safeguards that give Americans confidence in the products at the grocery store, the safety of their workplaces, the cleanliness of the water system, the soundness of our financial system, and the safety of vital infrastructure…
Public Health and Clean Air – These bills would continue to prevent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from implementing standards defining power plants, industrial boilers, process heaters and cement plants compliance with the Clean Air Act. Those structures are the largest emitters of mercury and toxic air pollutants. Compliance would curb their harmful impact on the respiratory health of millions of Americans.
Food Safety – Each year, 1.2 million people get sick, 7,125 are hospitalized, and 134 die from foodborne illnesses contracted from contaminated produce. Illnesses and food recalls also hurt the U.S. agriculture and food industries. The Food Safety Modernization Act, passed with support from both industry and consumer groups, calls for new regulations on produce handling on large farms and an inspection system for foreign farms to be in place by 2013. Its implementation depends on rulemaking that would be blocked by the proposed bills.
Workplace Safety – Beryllium, a toxic substance (lung cancer and other fatal and chronic diseases) exposed to workers in the electronics, nuclear, and metalwork industries. Current1950s-based standards allow workers to continue to be exposed to levels higher than ruled safe for nuclear power plant workers. The three proposed bills would stop the Occupational Safety and Health Administration from updating exposure standards to protect all workers.
Energy and Environment – The proposed bills would block the U.S. Department of Energy from implementing the Energy Security and Independence Act, delaying for five years updates of energy efficiency standards for a wide range of products. The estimated lost savings for the U.S. economy would be $48 to $105 billion. The bills also would halt the Federal Trade Commission’s rulemaking for energy efficiency labeling designed to protect consumers from misleading and deceptive claims about product energy savings.
In addition to these measures, some of the bills in the package would reduce benefits for our veterans, and loosen the already lenient rules regarding the approval of medical devices in America.
If passed, these laws would sacrifice the lives and well being of American citizens based solely on the hope that companies will create more jobs. To the House Republicans who proposed this legislation, their faith in corporations to “do the right thing” is greater than their belief that every life is sacred and worth protecting.
But the most important thing to remember about their proposals is that they won’t work. As I have pointed out over the years, regulations are not destroying jobs, nor are they hindering job creation. In fact, tightening safeguards would actually lead to greater job creation than destroying regulations.
Talking points aside, House Republicans are also overlooking the fact that destroying safeguards will also have a devastating effect on the fragile U.S. economy. Studies tell us that for every dollar spent on safeguards and regulations, an economic benefit of between four and eight dollars ripples throughout the economy. To put it simply, every dollar spent on regulations has a minimum return of 400% for the U.S. economy. Any investor could see that this would be a wise decision.
In addition to the lost investments, we have to look at the jobs that would be lost by doing away with regulations. Delaying implementation, or doing away with completely, the Clean Air Act standards could cost our economy an estimated 1.5 million jobs.
And those numbers are just the ones on the surface. We would also have to factor in the economic impact of health and environmental degradation that would be placed on the economy if these safeguards were removed. It is a fact that U.S. taxpayers already pay for healthcare costs related to air pollution, estimated to be about $50 billion a year. Environmental costs shifted to taxpayers also total in the billions a year, as seen with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and the Exxon Valdez spill (every disaster has costs that are shifted to taxpayers, those are just two of the largest examples.)
And again, all of these costs and dangers that will be imposed on the American public are only in the HOPE that corporate America will create more jobs. After analyzing all of the available information about regulations and job creation, its clear that repealing these safeguards will do little, if anything at all, to spur job growth in America. On the other hand, tightening these safeguards and fully implementing ones that have been delayed would provide an enormous benefit to both our health and our economy. But the dirty energy industry only thinks about their profits, not what happens in the world around them.