The Japanese Earthquake Highlights The Need For Government Regulation

Mar 13 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

The devastating earthquake that rocked Japan on Friday was one of the most powerful in recorded history, and when damage assessments are finished, it may indeed be a very expensive natural disaster. It is not yet clear how many lives were lost, but suffice it to say that the casualty figures will be less than those from Haiti’s catastrophic quake last year. Clearly, Haiti suffered more extensive damage in lives and infrastructure because of economics, but more importantly, it is because they lacked building standards and investment in earthquake preparedness.

Although there is significant damage from the subsequent tsunami and massive flooding in Japan, it appears that damage to buildings was not nearly as devastating as it could have been, and when buildings don’t collapse, people live. The earthquake should be a wake-up call to Americans who support the spending cuts Republicans are proposing because many of the cuts are to agencies that protect every American regardless of income. Republicans claim the cuts are necessary for job creation and maintaining the America’s Christian principles, but there is an underlying hatred of regulations for corporate economic gain that drives many of the cuts.

Japan has some of the most stringent building codes because of the frequent earthquake activity in the island nation. They have learned by experience that it is more advantageous and economically prudent to regulate construction to assuage damage from an earthquake than to rebuild entire cities and infrastructure. America also has stringent building standards and regulations in place to prevent catastrophic loss of life and property, but if Republicans have their way, all regulations will be eliminated so corporations can reap more profits. Some of the spending cuts Republicans propose are hard to understand until the beneficiaries are exposed.

Republicans have targeted environmental agencies like the EPA, Conservation Programs, green technology, and renewable energy programs for spending cuts as a gift to the oil and coal industry. Without regulators and inspectors, the fossil fuel industry is able to pollute the air and water with impunity. Republicans want to cut spending for minority services, urban development, maternal and child health grants as well as community health centers to mitigate the cost of tax cuts for the wealthy.

Every American benefits from regulatory agencies that protect the food supply, medicine, and especially the environment. Republicans depend on safe food and pharmaceuticals as much as any other American, and yet the FDA, Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and Poison Control Centers are on the list of spending cuts. It is astonishing that Republicans want to cut spending for inspectors and regulators who help guarantee consumers have access to the necessities of life. Republicans even proposed cutting the National Weather Service and USGS which will cost jobs and endanger American lives.  The weather service is part of an early warning system for tornadoes and hurricanes, and the USGS monitors earthquake faults and volcanic activity. One would think that even the oil industry would encourage Republicans to increase funding for the weather service because adverse weather can interrupt and damage drilling operations; but Republicans hate regulations.

It is the nature of unscrupulous corporate businesses to take shortcuts and ignore regulations whenever possible to save money. In construction it is less expensive to use sub-standard materials and by-pass building codes, but without inspectors to enforce regulations, many businesses use the cheapest materials possible regardless of consumer or public safety.  Businesses have a moral and legal obligation to provide safe goods and services or they are penalized for ignoring regulations. Based on the lack of catastrophic building collapses in Japan, their inspectors and regulations must be very robust to withstand an 8.9 magnitude earthquake.

Last week the House Federal Budget Oversight committee asked Comptroller General Gene Dodaro how the government could improve revenue collection and efficiency in government. He stated categorically that the government must hire tens-of-thousands of highly-trained inspectors and regulators. Dodaro said that the safety of the American people dictates the need for the additional inspectors, and enforcing regulations now is more cost-effective than total infrastructure failure in the event of a natural disaster. After the meeting, every Republican voted for the spending cuts that will lay off inspectors and gut regulatory agencies, including the IRS that collects taxes the country desperately needs.

Americans deserve safe food, water, infrastructure, and they pay taxes to ensure the government continues holding corporations to the high standards we expect. Republicans though, consider low corporate taxes and deregulation as the solution to every problem in America. The government has done its job in setting regulations and standards that, if followed, guarantee a quality of life that was once the envy of the world. Corporations’ only concern is making higher profits; it is why they lobby Republicans to eliminate safety and quality regulations. The government has a responsibility to protect its citizens, but with Republicans in control, corporate profits are the top priority and regulations are in jeopardy of being eliminated. Republicans should look at Japan and see how beneficial regulations are, but with corporations flashing money in front of their eyes, they will continue their deregulation tear until a disaster occurs; then they will blame President Obama.

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