Regulations: The Enemy Of No One

red-tapeA core aspect of the Republican platform over recent years is to eliminate government regulations. The rationale most often associated with this push is the idea that government regulations cost jobs. Unfortunately jobs are really just a red herring in this argument since the actual impetus has more to do with corporate profits and campaign donations than jobs.

The reality is that even if one product is deemed unacceptable, the market demand for that product will still exist and whatever products fills the void should create an equivalent number of jobs. In the past, for example, when it was determined that asbestos and lead paint cost lives, the government, as the protector of the people, stepped in and essentially regulated these products out of business. Luckily at the time corporate money was much less important and the good of the people easily trumped “jobs” or any other misdirection corporations could dream up. Did the country suddenly slip into a recession because the asbestos and lead paint industries no longer existed? No. Instead other companies that produced better products which were less harmful gain market share.

Today a similar war is being waged over coal, but now corporate money is wagging the dog and the good of the people has taken a backseat. Employees in the coal industry are nearly seven times a likely to die on the job than similar occupations. They also miss four times as many days of work. Additionally some 24,000 people die each year from the affects of coal. So regardless of how many hypothetical jobs are lost in the conversion to clean energy, as long as another product is available and is less detrimental, we should support that change.

The problem here is that Republicans are portraying regulations as the enemy instead of the public protection devise they really are. The truth is, regulations only exist because some unscrupulous or ignorant person or corporation messed it up for the rest of us. When congress passed Dodd-Frank is was a result of banks acting badly not some imaginary lust for punishing big business. When a compounding facility in Massachusetts failed to operate within the law – causing a fungal meningitis outbreak that has claimed fifty lives so far – calls to increase regulations are an effort to prevent future issues not an affront to capitalism. And when Congress passed Sarbanes–Oxley it was a direct result of Enron’s failure to self-regulate costing many their life savings and thousands of jobs not some socialist government overreach.

The vast majority of Americans would love it if their mortgage documents were a few short pages instead of a Stephen King like horror novel or if they could board a plane without having to take off half of their clothes however the same greed and drive that make capitalism so successful also leads to many doing whatever it takes to increase their share of the pie. Pretending that the preventing these deviants from being able to act unimpeded is the main reason for our sluggish economy helps no one but the very corporate despoilers that precipitated the problems in the first place.

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