Lessons of the West Explosion: Government Regulation Bad; Government Money Good
All I want is to connect the dots. You help me. Mayor Tommy Muska, whose town of West just suffered what has been called the worst industrial accident in the 15-year history of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, is on the front page of The New York Times today agreeing with Governor Oops that government regulation is not the answer.
Muska says any analysis blaming the blast on the utter and complete lack of routine safety procedures in West before the blast is "Monday morning quarterbacking."
OK. Even if their fertilizer plant blows up, kills 15 people, injures 200 and destroys a swath of the town, people in West still don't want the government, especially that federal one, sticking its long nose under their tent. Ferocious independence till death do us part. Got it.
"Listen, pard, we don't need no government paper, less'n it's green."
But here on the same day on the front page of The Dallas Morning News we've got what sure sounds like the same town -- West, Texas (there's only one Czech Stop, right?) -- where everybody is rushing down to FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to get themselves signed up on the federal dole for some help. And bitching about having to fill out the forms!
"It's unbelievable," one lady says. "It's indescribable. It's hell."
Back over in the New York paper, Chuck DeVore, vice president of policy at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, is telling a reporter the last thing people in Texas want, blast or no blast, is "battalions of government regulators who are deployed into industry and presume to know more about running the factory than the people who own the factory and work there every day." (Battalions of criminal investigators, who this morning arrested volunteer West EMS worker on charges of possessing a "destructive device," are a different matter. It will take at least a battalion of those guys to figure out exactly what went wrong.)
However the investigation shakes out, a big question remains: How come after the blast happens, people in Texas want the federal bail-out money? And they want it now. Without a bunch of big forms to fill out. Just come by the house and drop off the check.
I get the whole ferocious independence cowboy thing. Sometimes I love it. It's like watching a good John Wayne movie. Governor Oops shooting his gun and stuff. Cool. But how come John Wayne always winds up down at the federal building boohooing and blowing snot over how long it's taking him to get his federal welfare check?
If you really don't believe in government and you really don't want even the minimal level of safety regulation -- the kind that would have told that fertilizer company to stop storing huge amounts of explosive chemical near a school, nursing home and apartment building -- then, fine. Show your commitment to your principles by not taking a dime from the government when the plant blows up.
There's a cost for some principles, right? The Times story reports that for the last 10 years Texas has suffered the nation's highest rate of workplace fatalities, more than 400 a year. The story says, "Fires and explosions at Texas' more than 1,300 chemical and industrial plants have cost as much in property damage as those in all the other states combined for the five years ending in May 2012.
"Compared with Illinois, which has the nation's second-largest number of high-risk sites, more than 950, but tighter fire and safety rules, Texas had more than three times the number of accidents, four times the number of injuries and deaths, and 300 times the property damage costs."
And there it is. The price. So tell me why, when that bill comes due, we want the federal government to pay it for us. Just connect me some dots. All I ask. Mamas, don't let your cowboys grow up to be crybabies.
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