American governments, at all levels, for a century have been increasingly forced to step in to protect people from big business, whether in our factories, the supermarket, our cars, nearby streams and even the air we breathe.
Government regulation of working conditions, food quality, car safety, energy and pollution never proceeded quickly and without a struggle, even under the guidance of the most liberal leaders. Corporations pack a lot of clout, and, as we all know, money and lobbying “make the world go ‘round.”
Conservatives, of course, like to say that unfettered capitalism without government interference is good for the economy, and what’s good for the economy is good for people.
But we know that’s not true. Without government, how many working hours and how many casualties would be the norm where we are employed? Too many toxins would still be standard fare in the food we buy. How many rivers would still be on fire from their pollutants? And how many Ford Pintos would be on our roadways?
It has come to light in recent months, however, that our levels of government have been failing to protect us in many ways, just when we thought we had a president who might push the country in a more-healthy direction.
• In January, a power plant’s chemical storage tank near Charleston, W.Va., began leaking 4-methylcyclohexane methanol (known as MCHM) into the Elk River, upstream from a water-treatment plant. About 300,000 people in several counties were advised not to drink the water, and hundreds unaware of the advisory had to seek medical treatment.
According to The Washington Post, many such discharges are legal because the EPA “has few limits on chemicals released by power plants (although last year the agency proposed the first major limits on a few compounds since 1982).”