November 14, 2017
After the car ran down people in lower Manhattan, I read an article about making streets safer for pedestrians and bicyclists. I’m not sure if I agree or disagree with the author’s suggestions but I want to make a point about arguments for and against. One could say that people with bad intentions will just find other ways to kill lots of people. True or false? Actually it’s completely misleading. How many people with bad intentions will find other ways and how many won’t? How many people will do as much damage to as many people and how many won’t? The statement that some will doesn’t tell you. And the claim that all will is pure nonsense.
In the early 70s, I was a manager of the New York City legal services program, then known as Community Action for Legal Services or CALS. We had twenty-two offices around the city. All of them were in the poorest and most crime-ridden areas of the city. And in those pre-computer days, many of them had IBM Selectric typewriters which made our staff much more efficient but were expensive. Some thieves craved them. In our East New York office there had been a series of burglaries. After each we hardened the office against further break-ins. But those thieves were determined. Unable to get through the doors, they blew a hole through the wall and took the typewriters.
Obviously some thieves will use explosives. Should we have concluded that we might as well remove the locks on the doors of our twenty-one other offices? Plainly no. Nor would I recommend that you remove the locks from the doors of your homes. Nor would I recommend that you take all the shades and drapes down became peeping toms will find a way around them. Thinking about problems without examining how many, and what proportion of people will do how much damage is just sloppy thinking.
The NRA tells us that bad people will get guns. That statement is neither right nor wrong. If they mean some bad people will get guns no matter what we do, that is clearly true. But if they mean that whatever measures we take will not reduce the number of bad people who can get powerful weapons, that is clearly false. And they can’t tell us anything realistic about the proportions because they convinced Congress to block research into the effect of possible regulation of weapons. So they make sloppy statements hoping you’ll be taken in.
The Founders of our country were not so sloppy and they did lots to regulate guns – the most significant of which was to prohibit people from keeping ammunition in their homes. Ammunition exploded and caused fires so it had to be kept in public armories. Regulation mattered and they knew it.
So when people try to tell you what regulation will or won’t do, don’t let them pull the wool over your eyes with sloppy nonsense. Some regulations work better than others. That’s a valuable subject of research and study, not an occasion for sloppy all-or-nothing claims.
— This commentary was broadcast on WAMC Northeast Report, Nov. 14, 2017.
May 16, 2017
I keep looking for ways to talk with supporters of the Administration. President Carter started the deregulation frenzy. That has become half of the Republican cut-and-deregulate refrain ever since, consistently repeated by the current White House and the Republicans in Congress. I’d like to focus on the things that will affect those of us who are, financially speaking, ordinary, middle-class Americans.
Here are changes the Administration and congressional Republicans are considering that affect working conditions:
- The White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs has been postponing and considering cutting down a Labor Department rule that limits “workers’ exposure [to] toxic material, which can cause a deadly lung disease.”
- The same White House Office is also “considering a proposal to roll back protections for workers in construction and shipbuilding.”
- Those rules allow our employers to save cash by risking our health.
- “The Working Families Flexibility Act … would give employees a choice between taking time off or being paid time-and-a-half when they work more than 40 hours in a week.”
- Either way, Republicans oppose changing overtime rules to raise eligibility for overtime above the current $23,660 per year.
- Those rules allow our employers to save cash by shortchanging us.
Here are some that affect the health of financially ordinary Americans:
- The Administraton has already taken steps to “roll back healthy school lunch standards”
- The new head of the FDA “has invested in or consulted for dozens of healthcare companies” which suggests that the Food and Drug Administration won’t be much help in preventing unnecessary complications and expenses.
- The House health care bill would eliminate Obamacare requirements that insurance plans cover prescriptions drugs and mental healthcare. Like all insurance, drug and mental health care coverage are intended to protect people from unplanned changes in the costs of survival.
- Senate Republicans narrowly lost an effort to roll back a regulation that “limit[s] methane emissions from oil and natural gas drilling.” Methane is even more damaging to the climate than carbon.
- Those rules risk our health for the sake of other people’s profits.
On savings for retirement:
- “Trump’s Labor Department delayed the so-called fiduciary rule, ordering financial advisers to act in … [your] best interest[s] … [if you] are saving for retirement.”
- The CHOICE Act would allow the banks that brought us the crash of 2008 to opt out of regulations adopted after the crash and intended to prevent another. And the bill renames the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and “reduces its power to enforce pre-existing consumer protection laws.”
- Those rules risk our financial security for the sake of other people’s profits.
Meanwhile, Republicans on the Supreme Court show little respect for working men and women.
- With Breyer’s help they have blessed “Professional debt collectors … [who] built a business out of buying stale debt, filing claims in bankruptcy proceedings to collect it, and hoping that no one notices that the debt is too old to be enforced by the courts.”
- The Court continues to apply a 1925 statute intended for interstate business transactions to consumer contracts and the Court bars state regulation entirely.
What Republicans continue to give us is freedom for the boss and drudgery for the rest of us. As the old folk song has it, “same song, second verse, could get better but it’s gonna get worse.”
— This commentary was broadcast on WAMC Northeast Report, May 16, 2017.
January 28, 2014
Before moving to Albany thirty-five years ago, we lived in Morgantown, West Virginia – a university town and a mining town. We knew people in both worlds. Our daughter was only seven, but after we moved she got letters from a little friend there who was the son of a miner. Miners lived all around.
Morgantown was very special, but the chemical leak and contamination in Charlestown reveals the naiveté of many in West Virginia and elsewhere in the U.S., who believe that whatever is good for the companies is good for us, that the companies are looking out for our welfare. Read the rest of this entry »
October 16, 2012
During the fund drive I heard Joe Donahue and this station working hard to bring Bill McKibben to this audience and lead us away from the catastrophe of global warming. He and the station did a great service and I am proud to be associated with them.
If your house was on fire you wouldn’t stand like a bystander waiting for it to collapse; you’d call the fire department and get anyone you could reach out of there fast.
If you child or your grandchild were about to drown, you would not turn your back moaning that it was too awful to contemplate; you’d raise hell to get your children out.
If your children disappeared on a camping trip, you wouldn’t sit around moaning; you’d search, call the rangers, find those children.
If your baby was dying of thirst, you’d find water. If your child was dying of hunger you’d find food. I met one six year old girl whose mother released her to others who brought her to America after the young girl’s brother had died of starvation in Liberia. It’s awful to contemplate but as parents we do what we have to in order to protect our children. Read the rest of this entry »
April 23, 2012
As I write this, I just listened to another story about people who want to drink raw milk. When I was 11, recovering from an illness, my doctor, the chairman of pediatrics at a New York City hospital, told my parents to put me on raw milk – but specific milk medically supervised to make sure that it didn’t carry the botulism and other diseases that could have killed me quickly.
Let me make one other disclosure. I never met my sister. She died in 1927 at the age of three. I came along many years later. It was only in my generation that parents no longer expected to lose some of their children. So I have a foot and a heart in and an understanding of both worlds. Read the rest of this entry »