Saturday, August 14


Reading the most recent polls, I believe a majority of Americans evidently recognize Bush's focus is not on the needs of ordinary people, but on making it easier for the profit-makers to screw their customers and the public in general, easier for the super-wealthy to increase their fortunes without effort of productivity. But that's not the half of it. Bush is firmly committed to establishing a permanent elite of the connected and well-funded, financially handicapping the middle class and disabling the productive lower class from advancing to the next economic tier. Our preoccupation with the war on terra has enabled BushCo to dismantle, roll back or eliminate regulations benefiting or protecting working Americans, seniors, the environment, and consumers. Much of Bush/Rove's cynical and manipulative use of 9/11 to advance their agenda has been under the radar.

Out of spotlight, Bush overhauls U.S. regulations:

Allies and critics of the Bush administration agree that the Sept. 11 attacks, the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq have preoccupied the public, overshadowing an important element of the president's agenda: new regulatory initiatives. 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 while dismaying interest groups representing consumers, workers, drivers, medical patients, the elderly and many others.
Some leaders of advocacy groups argue that the public preoccupation with war and terrorism has allowed the administration to push through changes that otherwise would have provoked an outcry. Carl Pope, the executive director of the Sierra Club, says he does not think the administration could have succeeded in rewriting so many environmental rules, for example, if the public's attention had not been focused on national security issues.

"The effect of the administration's concentration on war and terror has been to prevent the public from focusing on these issues," Mr. Pope said. "Now, when I hold focus groups with the general public and tell them what has been done, they exclaim, 'How could this have happened without me knowing about it?' "
Bush administration officials and their allies say they use regulations because new laws are not needed for many of the changes they have made and going to Congress every time would be needlessly complicated. But Representative David R. Obey, the Wisconsin Democrat who is the ranking minority member of the Appropriations Committee, said regulatory changes did not benefit from the "checks and balances and oversight" that Congress provides.

New regulations first appear as notices of proposed rule-making in the Federal Register, which is published every weekday. Generally, government officials and others directly concerned with government business read this dense publication.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration published the new rule on the public release of auto-safety information on July 28, 2003, but outside the industry hardly anyone took notice. In the following months, allies of tire manufacturers and automakers flooded the agency with comments, and all of them "contended that the release of early warning data is likely to cause substantial competitive harm," the agency said. At the same time, consumer groups argued that the data "should be released because it is important to the identification of potential defects," the agency added.

When the agency published a revised final rule on April 21, 2004, it exempted from public release warranty-claim information, industry reports on safety issues and consumer complaints, among other data, saying that releasing that information would cause "substantial competitive harm."

Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group, filed suit, saying consumers needed the data to inform themselves about unsafe vehicles and tires. But Ray Tyson, the chief spokesman for the highway safety agency, said: "The suggestion that the American consumer is missing out is off the mark. I can't believe this information would be of much interest to the general public."

A Pro-Business Tilt

The overall regulatory record shows that the Bush administration has heeded the interests of business and industry. Like the Reagan administration, which made regulatory reform a priority, officials under Mr. Bush have introduced new rules to ease or dismantle existing regulations they see as cumbersome. Some analysts argue that the Bush administration has introduced rules favoring industry with a dedication unmatched in modern times.

"My thoughts go back to Herbert Hoover," said Robert Dallek, the presidential historian. "No president could have been more friendly to business than Hoover" until the Bush administration.
The administration, at the request of lumber and paper companies, gave Forest Service managers the right to approve logging in federal forests without the usual environmental reviews. A Forest Service official explained that the new rule was intended "to better harmonize the environmental, social and economic benefits of America's greatest natural resource, our forests and grasslands."

In March of 2003, the Mine Safety and Health Administration published a proposed new regulation that would dilute the rules intended to protect coal miners from black-lung disease. The mine workers union called the new rules "extremely dangerous," while a mine safety administration official contended, "We are moving on toward more effective prevention of black-lung disease."
Consumer and driver-safety groups, including Public Citizen and Parents Against Tired Truckers, started lobbying the new agency to shorten the number of hours drivers could stay behind the wheel. But trucking industry officials argued that shorter shifts would disrupt delivery schedules, which in turn would raise prices on thousands of products delivered by truck.

Last year, the Department of Transportation finally issued a new rule, saying in a prepared statement that it would "save hundreds of lives" and "protect billions in commerce." The change would increase allowable driving time from 10 hours without a break to 11 hours. But after 11 hours, drivers would have to take 10 hours off instead of eight.

Trucking companies said they were satisfied with the rule while truck drivers deplored it, saying the added hours of driving time would increase driver fatigue.
Last August, for example, the administration relaxed its clean-air rules by allowing thousands of corporations to upgrade their plants without having to install expensive pollution-control equipment, saying that would allow plants to modernize more easily, leading to greater efficiency and lower consumer costs.
Still, the administration is pleased with its overall record of regulatory change. Mr. Graham, the budget office official, eagerly acknowledged that the regulatory tilt had been toward business. "The Bush administration has cut the growth of costly business regulations by 75 percent, compared to the two previous administrations," he said.

Representative Obey said he believed most Americans remained unaware of many of the changes.

"Most people are busy just trying to make a living," he said. "And with all the focus on Iraq and bin Laden, it gives the administration an opportunity to take a lot of loot out the back door without anybody noticing."


Post a Comment

<< Home