Profits Before People

Toxic-Household-Products-Poisoning-Your-Homes
“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 . . .

 

 

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Profits Before People

Masters of the Universe

Panel moderator Chris Matthews of MSNBC, left, hugs Senator

 

The Washington Post, New York Times, and NY Daily News just won’t give up.  Bernie keeps winning while they keep whining, ignoring him in coverage and bashing him on the back page, even after he hammered Hillary in eight out of the nine last contests.  These jaded pieces are so strident they border on the boorish, painting the first populist since John Edwards and Howard Dean as a delusional, lying lunatic bent on sending the U.S. straight to Stalinist Russia.  Did these papers rip that other Democratic Socialist (and top-tier POTUS Hall of Famer) FDR like this when he ran for Prez?  Doubt it.  Yet it’s quite clear this Clintonite crew is experiencing a visceral, knee-jerk reaction to Bernie’s New-New Deal, but why?

Tom Wolfe coined these types “Masters of the Universe” in Bonfire of the Vanities, his classic fictional case study of elite hubris.  This current cast of vain-glorious characters recoils at the notion of Bernie’s revolution, which challenges business-as-usual in the corporate media establishment.  Heck, if Bernie’s elected they might have to cover future elections on substance rather than gossip, gotcha-questions, and horse-race politics. Or cover corporate corruption the way their predecessor Walter Cronkite did instead of soft-pedaling it from their pedestals.

In their quest for harvesting eyeballs and cheap profits, mass media has contracted mass amnesia. Mainstream news has completely forgotten its sacred mission and public duty to constantly QUESTION the status quo rather than shamelessly and vigorously defend it as they do with Clinton.  For the Washington Post, the case is hopeless so long as Amazon magnate Billionaire Bezos owns that dying paper.  Honestly folks, would the current Post have pulled out all the stops to expose Watergate under its current regime?  Pleeeease . . .

And we don’t need to read tea leaves to see that citizens on the left AND the right are fed up with a system that’s been ripping them off for two generations.  The People are demanding change NOW, not next year, or next month, or next week, but NOW, so it’s high time the tone-deaf media started challenging the status quo instead of coddling it.  Not only that, they should thank their lucky stars they live in a country where they still can.  These guys should know journalists around the world get murdered every day for pushing back against power, yet they insist on denigrating Bernie’s revolution against a system that, ironically, gets less democratic by the day.

Granted, some Clintonites genuinely fear big change might disrupt the overall economy, but Bernie’s answer is:  What economy?  The current system may be working for them, but not for 99% of their fellow citizens.  The bottom line is, despite all the elite media’s kicking and screaming, we really do need an FDR redux to fix forty years of disastrous, neo-liberal economic policy, and Bernie brilliantly fits the bill.

So when Hillary’s henchmen like Chris Matthews bitch that Bernie “makes promises he can’t keep”, it’s not just a lie but an insult to any American, liberal or conservative, demanding real change.  Statements like these assume the American people aren’t capable of freeing their government from corporate tyranny, even via a grassroots groundswell of political pressure not seen since the Sixties.  Apparently, Master-of-the-Universe-Matthews and other media honchos just don’t believe the American people have the juice to get the job done.  Well, I don’t know about you, but I take that as a challenge, especially when it comes in the form of a patronizing dictum hurled at me (a mere mortal) from the lofty heights of Mt. Olympus.  In fact, it makes me damn mad.

 

 

Masters of the Universe