Monday, April 12, 2010

Privatize what?

As deceased miners were sadly laid to final rest in West Virginia on Saturday, I just happened to tune in the Mike McConnell show on WGAN (A rebroadcast of his April 7th show). McConnell, from Cincinnati, is truly a small time radio rant fry of the libertarian bend and demonstrated that his low station count is related to his low blow delivery.

McConnell brashly blamed the mine disaster that killed 29 on government regulators of the Mine Safety & Health Administration and not the operator, Massey Energy Company. Listen to just the first 6 minutes of the show podcast to hear his solution: Privatize mine safety!

Was the government capable in any way? Well yes, but not in the way that McConnell would have you believe in his effort to bring one to the altar of almighty free unfettered markets. The MSHA had indeed logged a shocking number of citations in safety violations at the mine. But the agency is a defanged regulatory body according to the excellent reporting of Clara Bingham of the Daily Beast.

Defanged regulatory agencies are an unfortunate legacy of the Bush administration’s efforts to reduce all encumbrances upon the marketplace. Thus Massey could essentially play out a dance of pushing production up to satisfy stockholders while paying selected fines and contesting or appealing citations to bog down regulators. Massey is another classic example of an unethical company determining that violations are a cost of business that can be borne in the pursuit of profits

Thus past administrations’ made the government culpable to some extent. But without any doubt at all, the moral culpability is squarely upon Massey. Now we need to empower the MSHA with great big powerful fangs to protect miners and ignore absurd voices like that of Mike McConnell. Just like the banking and credit fiascos, deregulation can cause a crash and some crashes kill.

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