Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Curse of the Job Killers

Once upon a time, there was a group of people, Congressmen and business owners, who didn’t want government to be regulating business. They wanted companies, no matter whether mining, oil exploration, or financial, to be able to do whatever they wanted to do.

But they had a problem because years ago when business had that freedom, they abused it and paid no heed to the negative impact of their actions on the welfare of the general public or their workers. As a result laws and regulations were passed over the years that protected the general public and workers … things like the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Occupational Safety and Health act.

Then an economic crisis came upon the land. Unemployment was high and people were worried about their jobs. “Aha!” thought this business-friendly group, if we say that laws and regulations that impact business are job killers, the public will support our effort to do away with these rules, even though they are there for their protection.

And so they started calling all regulation, especially environmental regulation, job killers. And the people were afraid and said that they were against government regulation.

Unfortunately, this is not a fairy tale. This is actually happening. And what’s most amazing, no one … not anyone in Congress or any editorial writer … has to my knowledge called this Republican scam for the lie that it is.

Government regulations, as a general rule, are not job killers. They certainly often reduce corporate profits, but they are not job killers.  And that’s because all these companies will continue in business, regulations or no. No existing or contemplated regulation is so onerous that it would encourage a business to fold up shop.

Now if a mining company wants to remove a mountaintop to get at coal and is told, “no,” by the government, or if hydro-fracking would be prohibited, those would indeed be job killers in the sense that new jobs would not be created. But the public’s health cannot be held hostage to the need to create jobs. When something so endangers the public health, is so egregious, that it’s not a matter of regulating a business but actually prohibiting it, then that is the duty of government. It is the only protection we have.

All this hue and cry by the Republicans and by business interests is solely a matter of enabling businesses to maximize their profits. It has, with the narrow exceptions noted, nothing to do with jobs. Democrats must destroy this myth or we will all suffer the consequences.