Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Bush's Big Business Agenda

From americanprogressaction.org


Analysis by The Washington Post and The New York Times shows the Bush
administration is continuing to use regulatory action, exempt from
Congressional oversight and often hidden from public scrutiny, to further a
big business agenda despite demonstrated risks to public health and
safety. An extensive analysis by the WP reveals the administration has
employed regulatory action " to implement far-reaching policy changes
...Under Bush, these decisions have spanned logging in national
forests, patients' rights in government health insurance programs, tests for
tainted packaged meats, Indian land transactions and grants to religious
charities." The NYT notes the public has been distracted by Iraq and
the fight against terrorism. Meanwhile, "Health rules, environmental
regulations, energy initiatives, worker-safety standards and product-safety
disclosure policies have been modified in ways that often please
business and industry leaders
." The weakening of regulations has possibly endangered "consumers,
workers, drivers, medical patients, the elderly and many others." Check
out American Progress' and OMB Watch's report on the Bush
administration's dismantling of public safeguards

THE RECORD: According to the Post's analysis, President Bush's
deregulatory record represents a radical departure from previous
administrations. "All presidents have written or eliminated regulations to further
their agendas," the Post notes. "What is distinctive about Bush is that
he quickly imposed a culture intended to put his anti-regulatory stamp
on government
(http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A1315-2004Aug14.html) ."
In the past 3 1/2 years, the Occupational Safety and Health
Administration (OSHA), the branch of the Labor Department in charge of workers'
well-being, "has eliminated nearly five times as many pending standards
as it has completed. It has not started any major new health or safety
rules, setting Bush apart from the previous three presidents, including
Ronald Reagan. Unlike his two predecessors, Bush has canceled more of
the unfinished regulatory work he inherited than he has completed."

the Bush administration's disregard for public safety: On Saturday, the
NYT highlighted a controversial regulation published by the National
Highway Traffic Safety Administration forbidding the release of some
data relating to unsafe motor vehicles
. Following the lead of auto company lobbyists, the administration said
"publicizing the information would cause 'substantial competitive harm'
to manufacturers," even though it might help consumers choose safer
cars. Chief spokesman Ray Tyson said he was sure the now-suppressed
information, which includes "warranty-claim information, industry reports on
safety issues and consumer complaints," would not be " of much interest
to the general public
." Last week, the NYT documented how the administration is trying to
rewrite coal regulations
(http://www.nytimes.com/2004/08/09/politics/09coal.html?hp) in favor of
owners, rescinding "more than a half-dozen proposals intended to make
coal miners' jobs safer, including steps to limit miners' exposure to
toxic chemicals."

QUESTIONING THE DATA: Since it would be embarrassing to simply tell
consumers and workers it's not willing to make businesses pay to protect
them, the Bush administration has developed a different strategy for
achieving regulatory roll backs: question the science. In today's WP
addresses with the Data Quality Act
(http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A3733-2004Aug15.html) , a
little-known piece of legislation "written by an industry lobbyist and
slipped into a giant appropriations bill in 2000 without congressional
discussion or debate." The act is supposedly meant to ensure new
regulations are based on "sound science," but the WP found it has been used
predominantly by industry to challenge scientific data indicating risks
to workers or consumers. Included among the petitions so far: sugar
interests challenged dietary recommendations to limit sugar intake;
logging groups challenged calculations used to justify restrictions on timber
harvests; and the American Chemistry Council challenged data meant to
justify bans on wood treated with heavy metals and arsenic in playground