Very Loud, Very Hot Freedom

« May 2013 »

Memo to deregulation fetishists: THIS IS WHAT YOU WANT.

Ah, the deregulation dance. Deregulation is based on a simple premise - that businesses will do what's good for society without government intervention, because if they do bad for society, they will go out of business as consumers choose good-for-society companies to purchase their goods and services from. In other words, Schoolhouse Rock economics.

Never mind that modern capitalism makes it impossible for people to do that for every single product they buy - either they don't have the information they need, or a better option isn't available, or a better option is priced out of their reach, or just for fuck's sake, I need toilet paper to wipe my ass and don't have time to research a dissertation on pulp sourcing and fiber content.

The West Chemical plant is, or rather, was, a deregulator's wet dream. The plant, located (boom boom boom boom) deep in the heart of Texas, took place during the same week as the Boston bombing, killed five times as many people as the Boston bombing, and will prompt a tiny fraction of the speculation about what could have been done to prevent it, because a shit-ton could have been done to prevent it.

Fun fact. West Chemical got to tell the EPA whether there was a chance for a fire or explosion at the plant. The EPA didn't get to come by, take a look around, and determine, based on what they were making and storing, and how they were making or storing it, whether there was a risk of fire or explosion. No, West got to send in a form.

And what they sent in said, shockingly, that OF COURSE there was no way the place could catch on fire or blow up. Inconceivable! Worst case scenario, a little ammonia leak. The neighbors might think a cleaning bottle spilled. No harm, no foul.

Fun fact. The last proper safety inspection was when Madonna was young, George Michael was "straight", and Super Mario Bros. was new. 1985. Apparently, none of the technological changes since 1985 warranted anyone's attention because West Chemical said they sold more than half their stuff to end users, which meant they were a "retail" outlet. Were they really? It's tough to say.

One exemption lead to another. OSHA exemptions led to relaxed EPA rules, and the company was left alone, to do what it wanted, including carry an insurance policy of only $1 million in case something went wrong. Laissez faire in action! Freedom, Texas style.

Clearly, the customers of the plant should have checked into it themselves to see if the fertilizer there was prepared safely, and if so, buy their product elsewhere. Clearly, the people who lived down the road from the plant should have checked it themselves, and, if they didn't like what they saw, packed up and moved elsewhere. That's what Ron Paul would do!

Are you prepared to do all that legwork? No? Then the next time you hear some yahoo claiming that we don't need the EPA, remember the only smoking crater near Waco that libertarian wingnuts won't lose their shit about. The one government regulations could have prevented.