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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

It isn't just about food safety, either
Posted by Jill | 5:37 AM
Since 9/11/01, the Bush Administration's mantra has been that everything it does, that every botched military adventure (Afghanistan), every war based on lies (Iraq), every invasion of Americans' privacy, is in the name of "keeping us safe."

There's more to keeping Americans safe than stuffing your pockets with taxpayer cash from no-bid military contracts just lashing out at whatever country looks at you crosswise today. There are things like a food supply that's safe to eat and workplaces that are safe to go to every day. And on those fronts, the Bush Administration has shown time and time again that its focus is not on the Americans it says it wants to keep safe, but on the corporatists stuffing their pockets at the expense of Americans' safety. This bunch runs everything the way they run the military -- as long as Bush and Cheney and their cronies get even richer, the hell with everyone else.

The latest horror story: OSHA:

Seven years ago, a Missouri doctor discovered a troubling pattern at a microwave popcorn plant in the town of Jasper. After an additive was modified to produce a more buttery taste, nine workers came down with a rare, life-threatening disease that was ravaging their lungs.

Puzzled Missouri health authorities turned to two federal agencies in Washington. Scientists at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, which investigates the causes of workplace health problems, moved quickly to examine patients, inspect factories and run tests. Within months, they concluded that the workers became ill after exposure to diacetyl, a food-flavoring agent.

But the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, charged with overseeing workplace safety, reacted with far less urgency. It did not step up plant inspections or mandate safety standards for businesses, even as more workers became ill.

On Tuesday, the top official at the agency told lawmakers at a Congressional hearing that it would prepare a safety bulletin and plan to inspect a few dozen of the thousands of food plants that use the additive.

That response reflects OSHA’s practices under the Bush administration, which vowed to limit new rules and roll back what it considered cumbersome regulations that imposed unnecessary costs on businesses and consumers. Across Washington, political appointees — often former officials of the industries they now oversee — have eased regulations or weakened enforcement of rules on issues like driving hours for truckers, logging in forests and corporate mergers.

Since George W. Bush became president, OSHA has issued the fewest significant standards in its history, public health experts say. It has imposed only one major safety rule. The only significant health standard it issued was ordered by a federal court.

The agency has killed dozens of existing and proposed regulations and delayed adopting others. For example, OSHA has repeatedly identified silica dust, which can cause lung cancer, and construction site noise as health hazards that warrant new safeguards for nearly three million workers, but it has yet to require them.

“The people at OSHA have no interest in running a regulatory agency,” said Dr. David Michaels, an occupational health expert at George Washington University who has written extensively about workplace safety. “If they ever knew how to issue regulations, they’ve forgotten. The concern about protecting workers has gone out the window.”

That's because American workers, like the soldiers George W. Bush insists on sending to their deaths rather than admit he was wrong about Iraq, are just so much cannon fodder so that corporate executives and Bush family cronies can stuff their pockets with ever-increasing amounts of cash. Business is about one thing: profits. And if profits can be maximized by putting employees at risk every day, then the hell with the employees.

Most Americans, even those who have allowed Republicans to focus their attention down the economic ladder at illegal immigrants while corporatists outsource their jobs, bust their unions, eliminate their raises, trash any workplace standards that ever existed, and withdraw their health coverage, still hold with great regard this notion of an American work ethic. By allowing corporations and those who run them a free hand to put the lives of their employees at risk in the name of profits, the Bush Administration and the rest of the Republicans who are trying to eliminate all regulatory agencies by making them stupendously ineffective, are spitting in the face of American workers every day.

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