November 30, 2008

· Politics

This article is mostly about the Bush Administration’s rush to put a new workplace unsafety rule in place:

The Labor Department is racing to complete a new rule, strenuously opposed by President-elect Barack Obama, that would make it much harder for the government to regulate toxic substances and hazardous chemicals to which workers are exposed on the job. The rule, which has strong support from business groups, says that in assessing the risk from a particular substance, federal agencies should gather and analyze “industry-by-industry evidence” of employees’ exposure to it during their working lives. The proposal would, in many cases, add a step to the lengthy process of developing standards to protect workers’ health.

Because we all know businesses oppose cumbersome federal regulations, right? Except when they can be made maximally cumbersome, and thus wholly ineffective. But the best part of the article is later:

The Labor Department rule is among many that federal agencies are poised to issue before Mr. Bush turns over the White House to Mr. Obama. One rule would allow coal companies to dump rock and dirt from mountaintop mining operations into nearby streams and valleys. Another, issued last week by the Health and Human Services Department, gives states sweeping authority to charge higher co-payments for doctor’s visits, hospital care and prescription drugs provided to low-income people under Medicaid. The department is working on another rule to protect health care workers who refuse to perform abortions or other procedures on religious or moral grounds.

Other rules under review include an OSHA rule that CEOs be allowed to kick a small child, kitten or puppy at least once per day or after particularly stressful meetings; a DoE directive encouraging nuclear power stations to seize public school playgrounds for temporary waste processing; and the permenantizing of a Department of the Interior Program allowing pilots of fire-fighting aircraft to practice drops in the off season in built-up areas using otherwise idle stocks of waste engine oil, sewage or medical waste as needed.

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I am Associate Professor of Sociology at Duke University. I’m affiliated with the Kenan Institute for Ethics, the Markets and Management Studies program, and the Duke Network Analysis Center.



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