Kill People, Not Jobs

World’s Longest Hearse

Now that Brew Kavanaugh sits on the highest court in the land, Americans can expect to see their rights crimped and their styles cramped – unless their surnames are Inc. or LLC.

One area that will surely find favor with the newly right-bent Supreme Court is the decimation of rules and regulations – twin evils that are blamed for economic stagnation and jobicide. No doubt the titans of industry in such segments as manufacturing, mining, construction, pharmaceuticals and the like will savor the new found freedom to skirt regulations designed to ensure worker safety and protect end users. After all, imagine how much a place like Chiptole Grill could save if workers no longer had to waste time washing their hands after taking a dump? Oh wait – they’re already saving on that.

People seem to agree: reduce regulations and watch the economy soar.

And yet the recent devastating crash of a stretch limousine that killed 20 people in Schoharie, NY couldn’t have been a better illustration of what happens when an industry is subject to lax regulations, and even those that do exist are lightly enforced, if at all.

Seventeen people and a driver piled into a limo that was created a couple decades ago by chopping an SUV in half and extending its length by welding in some rails. The limo had no side airbags, no structural cage and no roll bars – all features of real limos built in factories. But as no regulations exist with respect to such Frankenstein vehicles, the passengers were sitting ducks when the limo careened down a country highway, ran through an intersection, plowed into a second vehicle killing two pedestrians and wound up crumpled in a wooded area.

Following the accident it became known that the ill-fated limo had not passed inspection and the driver didn’t hold the proper license for driving it. None of that stopped the limo company from conducting business. But you know about rules: too annoying to deal with. Besides, why kill the driver’s job when you can just kill the driver?

The history of business in the United States is replete with tragic bellwether events that drove the government to act to ensure such events would never happen again – or at least only rarely. The 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire which killed 146 workers when they couldn’t escape out of locked doors resulted in the development of significant safety regulations guiding construction, including mandatory fire escapes in tall buildings.

Upton Sinclair’s seminal book The Jungle about the appalling conditions he observed in the meat packing business in the early 1900s Chicago led to the creation of the Food and Drug Administration. I suspect even the staunchest anti-regulation wag would balk at consuming food and taking medicines that have been allowed to avoid inspection.

And the auto industry – despite constant pushback – has developed innumerable safety features that have led to significant drops in highway fatalities despite an explosion of miles driven over time. Imagine riding in a car without shatter-proof glass, airbags, anti-lock brakes and the like. Think about driving a car that never had to pass an inspection. I recall driving around Cleveland in the 70s at a time when cars in Ohio only had to pass inspection upon transfer of ownership. I saw people driving ancient cars with broken windshields, bald tires, missing headlights, and missing hoods. That madness is no longer the status quo.

Hell, even Kavanaugh’s favorite food – “I like beer!” – has been subject to purity laws put in effect 500 years ago in Bavaria.

Of course, anti-regulation people will point out the occasional wacky rule to make a blanket case for elimination across the board. Or the mountains of paperwork that accompany compliance with some regulations. These are valid complaints, but today we’re witnessing the tearing down of important strictures that have been in place for decades and for which the evidence of their value is solid. Most regulations in place today were not manufactured out of thin air – they were a response to a bona fide problem afflicting most Americans.

Allowing more mercury and arsenic in drinking water? What the fuck for? So a few coal miners can keep a shitty job? Reducing oversight of big pharma? So we can relive the horrors of thalidomide?

Let’s hope Kavanaugh is too busy boofing when anti-regulation cases come before the court.

Someone Give Trump a Mirror


Trump slimed into my old home town of Erie, PA this week to rally the red-hatted MAGA crowd ahead of some elections coming up soon. Luckily there are no urgent issues taking place around the world, affording Mr. Orange maximum time to travel the country to shill for the Cro-Magnon contingent of the Republican party.

Of course, Trump had to brag about winning Pennsylvania in 2016 and bask in the passe calls of “Lock Her Up!”

But the most risible remark from Trump had to be his take-down of Pennsylvania’s Democratic senator Bob Casey. Casey is the son of Bob Casey, Sr. who was governor of the Keystone State from 1987 to 1995.

This rank nepotism ran a frisson of disgust up Trump’s spine. “He’s banking on the name of his father,” exclaimed Trump.

Yeah – really. The guy who should have now been a retired shoe salesman is president because he banked on the name of his father. Jeez, is he that dense?

And then there’s this. In his bid to stop Democrats from taking the House, Santa Trump promised to send tons of sand to the eroded beaches of Erie’s Presque Isle park.

“We’re going to get him the sand, okay?” referring to a request by Erie’s flak in Congress.

The source of the sand gift? That which has accumulated in Trump’s golf shoes from the thousands of times Mr. Never-Will-Golf-As-President has stepped into a sand-trap since his inauguration.

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