August 15, 2008



Bush’s farewell gift
to chemical bosses

by Jim Hightower

For nearly eight years, George W’s labor department has been a do-nothing agency, viewing the safety needs of America’s workers with benign neglect. Thank goodness for small favors.

In the 11th hour of the Bushites’ reign, this comatose agency has suddenly jumped from benign neglect to malevolent aggressiveness. At issue is the protection of laborers from exposure to deadly workplace poisons. With no public warning, no consultation with labor groups, no discussion with key lawmakers and no compliance with the normal rule-making procedure, the political office of the labor department is engaged in a regulatory sneak attack, quietly issuing a proposal that drastically weakens protections for America’s workforce. In response to industry lobbyists, the new rule undermines the cautious assumption that a worker’s risk of harm must be based on very long, accumulated exposure to the toxins. Corporations complained to the White House that this precautionary principle overstates the workplace dangers posed by asbestos, lead and other lethal chemicals.

The department’s risk assessment experts were not even shown the proposed change until April. They opposed it — and assumed that it was dead. On July 7, however, a cryptic, nine-word item on a White House website revealed that the politicos had gone around them and were determined to sneak it through. Exposed, Bush appointees asserted that administration policy prevented them from revealing the details of the proposal, much less explaining who wrote it and why it was being pushed in a rush of secrecy.

Actually, I would let the industry have its weakened exposure limits — as long as the corporate CEOs agreed to have the same dosages of the same toxins placed in all of their executive suites. I'll bet personal danger would enhance their zeal for safety protections.

For more information on Jim Hightower's work — and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown— visit www.jimhightower.com


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