Profits Before People

“Industrial chemicals,” commonly known as everyday household products, are basically never tested for human toxicity.

A few years ago, I was shocked to learn that Congress passed a law in 1976 (The Toxic Substances Control Act) that stripped the EPA’s authority to regulate “industrial chemicals”; a highly deceptive term because this scary category actually includes household products. Under this terrible law, the EPA couldn’t even test a new chemical until it was on the market and people started getting sick, turning us into guinea pigs for the past 40 years.  Given the tens of thousands of potentially harmful chemicals introduced over four decades, God only knows how many toxic cocktails have accumulated in our systems, including asbestos and formaldehyde, and how many years were shaved off innocent people’s lives.  Yes, asbestos.  The United States is the only country on earth where asbestos is still legal under “specific applications” like brake pads, which means if you’ve ever changed your own brakes (like I have), you’ve been exposed.

This law is a perfect example of how Congress allows corporations to put profits before people.  In this case, Congress’ abrogation of its sworn duty to protect the public is particularly flagrant (and unforgiveable), because it violates citizen’s fundamental right not to buy products that kill them.  Worse, it constitutes an active suppression of critical information, which is vital to sound economics.  Consumers need accurate information to make informed purchases, otherwise you get what economists call a “dead-weight” loss.  In this context, the public is literally treated as dead weight.

There are currently tens of thousands of chemicals off limits to EPA scrutiny because of the law, which also mandates that EPA conduct a cost benefit analysis the few times the agency even considers banning a potential toxin.  It was this provision that forbade EPA from outlawing asbestos from American products, because the courts ruled EPA hadn’t accounted for chemical companies’ losses.  Since 1976, only five out of the 85,000 chemicals on the market have been banned under this stringent pro-business standard, while only a small fraction have even been tested.  Add the fact that EPA has been historically underfunded by a Congress hostile to its mission, and we might as well scrap the agency’s oversight of “industrial chemicals” (household products) altogether.

As usual, the lame-stream media was nowhere the past forty years on yet another example of Congress’ unwillingness to protect the public.  Thankfully, the law was finally amended several weeks ago but is still riddled with loopholes, and was only enacted because industry found state bans against suspected toxins inconvenient. However, states have now lost their right to initially ban chemicals under the new federal standard.  As usual, the law is unnecessarily complicated due to carve outs designed to protect profits over people, and, of course, the more complicated legislation is, the harder it is for the public to grasp, and the less likely they’ll pay attention to it.  Complex regulation also creates barriers to entry for small business, which the big guys love.

Of course the chemical industry’s response is that we need “compromise”, otherwise thousands of jobs will be lost, but the first thing our parents taught us was never to compromise on health.  Well, I guess they forgot to add:  “Except in corporate America.”  Yes, the standard fear-mongering about job loss shouldn’t be taken lightly, but therein lies the problem.  Moneyed interests in America have always been fond of embedding systems into our economy that are either under-regulated or never should’ve been allowed in the first place (like slavery).  Then, these nefarious practices get so entrenched we either have to fight a war to snuff them out or suffer seismic economic consequences to disentangle them from the economy.  Examples include:  Our dependence on foreign oil, processed food, cheap imports, standardized tests, for-profit prisons, for-profit colleges, for-profit healthcare, and on and on and on . . .



Profits Before People

You Are Not Entering the “No More War” Zone


rod serling - nano caption 600x457

At the Democratic Convention last week, California and Oregon delegates interrupted former CIA Director/Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s speech several times with chants of “NO MORE WAR!”   Then, after DNC officials dimmed the lights on the Oregon delegation, the protesters activated their flashlight apps and held their phones aloft like little Statues of Liberties to get Panetta’s attention.  Panetta, also a former Congressman, OMB Director and Chief of Staff for Bill Clinton, is a highly seasoned politician, yet he seemed genuinely surprised and somewhat perplexed as to how to handle the anti-war chorus.  All he could do was smile sheepishly and awkwardly soldier on through his speech.  The chants also caught the rest of the delegates off guard, until they started a counter-chant of their own:  “USA! USA! USA!” to drown out their opponents, and that’s when a cold chill ran down my spine.

Was I watching a rerun of the ‘04 GOP Convention when Code Pink disrupted George II’s coronation at Madison Square Garden and got drowned out by a similar neo-con infused “patriotic” roar?  No. It couldn’t be.  The “LIVE” caption at the bottom of my flatscreen disabused me of that notion.  So I rubbed my eyes and waited patiently for Rod Serling to emerge from the woodwork to reassure us that we had indeed, entered another dimension; some parallel universe where, after 15 years of perpetual war, the Democrats shouted down anti-war protesters with hollow chants of “USA! USA! USA!” while an embodiment of the military-industrial-complex extolled the virtues of a hawkish nominee.

Nope.  No Serling.  This wasn’t the Twilight Zone folks.  It truly was the 2016 Democratic National Convention.  Wow.  History was pivoting on a dime and I was watching it all go down in real time.  I felt privileged.  Then, my shock turned to awe as a realization swept over me:  I was witnessing the conversion of the Democratic Party from a historically tacit Pentagon supporter to an openly militaristic party that shuns any form of dissent when it comes to endless war.  But before I could digest this sea change, I was floored by an equally disturbing development.  PBS commentators, eager to project a glossy picture of party unity after Bernie’s Clinton endorsement, were virtually SILENT on this momentous turn of events.  It’s so very rare to witness a turning point in history crystallized in such dramatic fashion, and yet even on public television, and even with a media STARVED for drama, there was no analysis, no prolonged discussion and NOT ONE QUESTION fielded to Panetta during the ensuing interview regarding the embarrassment he had just suffered through, or, more importantly, the implications thereof.

When I combed through the next morning’s Washington Post (hardcopy), there was also NO MENTION of the disruption ANYWHERE in the ENTIRE NEWSPAPER (apologies if I’m wrong, but I don’t think it was covered). Democracy Now was the only news entity that devoted extensive coverage to the anti-war chant and subsequent “USA” drown-out.  No surprise there.

Fast forward to Thursday night’s acceptance speech:  Once again, protesters’ cries were drowned out with chants of “HILL-AR-Y, HILL-AR-Y, HILL-AR-Y,” which repeatedly interrupted the first woman nominee for President in U.S. history as Bernie supporters chanted more anti-war slogans. Again, the Orwellian media (with the exception of Fox News) was so eager to pander to Clinton, they glossed over the disruption as if we dreamed it or it never happened.

Ladies and gentlemen, this country’s establishment has moved so far right in its unquestioning support for military expansion (and expenditure), that lame-stream media just suppressed coverage of historic anti-war dissent to a surreal degree.  This should all give us pause, and open our eyes to the octopus-like corporate nexus of “news” media, campaign finance, K-Street Congress, and military contractors that dominate our foreign policy discourse.

Anti-war activist Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone was alive and well at the Dems’ Convention


You Are Not Entering the “No More War” Zone