Thursday, June 30, 2011

In the Perfect World of Governor Kasich and Don Blankenship

WHAT CAN GOVERNOR JOHN KASICH be thinking today? His approval rating is in the drink. More than 1.3 million Ohioans have signed petitions to place Senate Bill 5 up for a referendum.

Maybe ordinary, working Ohioans don’t want a state where business ride roughshod over anyone in their way. Maybe Ohioans don’t want businessmen to rule their state with an iron grip. Maybe they don’t want to go backwards in time.

It’s a great myth, with Kasich and all the business types—watch Fox News for an hour and you’ll see what swill they spill—that government is inefficient and run by idiots and government employees are incompetent sloths. By comparison, businessmen are wise and moral and just and know exactly what’s best for the economy and know that jobs can only be added if government gets out of the way.

What could possibly go wrong if we simply let the free-market work its magic and let all those great business minds have their way?

IT’ WORTH TAKING NOTE OF A STORY that appeared in The Vindicator, the Warren, Ohio newspaper a few days ago. In one story, we heard that more than a million Ohioans were standing up and saying, “Enough, Governor Kasich, enough.” There was another story, which had nothing to do with Senate Bill 5 on the surface, and everything to do with Senate Bill 5 beneath.

This is a story about what you get when business people have unfettered power. You get Don Blankenship of Massey Energy in West Virginia—a fellow Kasich would probably call a model of good business sense.

You know what they say at Fox News: Government regulation is always bad—too many rules and protections for workers—stupid safety rules and the like. Or, something like: “Regulation is strangling the economy, regulation is killing good jobs.”

At least it doesn’t kill workers.

Recent investigation shows that managers at Massey Energy, a company owned by Blankenship until recently, kept two sets of safety books at the Upper Big Branch mine where an explosion caused the deaths of 29 miners last year. One set was for their use, the other to be shown to government inspectors. It was important, you see, to keep interfering safety experts away and keep coal production operations running smoothly.

Remember, what the Tea Party people like to say: Second only to Jesus, businessman know best.

The families of the 29 dead workers might disagree. They might call hiding serious safety problems criminal conduct, not free enterprise. People like Kasich, who hate unions, call this a “perfect world.” Twenty-nine dead? No big deal! Profit is what counts.

And counts—and counts.

That’s the world Kasich and Blankenship and the fake journalists at Fox News dream of, a better time when conservatism ruled America and the worker, like the slave who came before him, knew his place.

I think they call it 1890.

THE VOTERS OF THE BUCKEYE STATE don’t want to return to the past and neither do the families of those dead West Virginia miners. So far, one former Massey employee, security chief Hughie Stover, has been indicted for lying to the FBI and federal mine safety officials. Eighteen other Massey officials have refused to testify in the investigation, citing their Fifth Amendment protections. One of them is Mr. Blankenship.

So let’s be clear about why we must defeat Senate Bill 5. In a world run by former Lehman Brothers types like Governor Kasich and owners like Don Blankenships, with the Glenn Becks of the world cheering them on from the media sidelines, it will be open season on worker rights if we don’t fight them.

You don’t have to be some kind of “commie,” as Beck implies, just to know we don’t want to go backwards and wipe out a century of progress. We don’t want to go back to the age of the Robber Barons.

A century ago miners used mules and died by the thousands every year.
That's why we have government safety inspections.

1 comment:

  1. Nicely put, John. Lots of times, government is the solution to problems that business wishes to cause for the benefit of shareholders and profit-takers. Government theoretically has the common good in mind; business usually doesn't even pretend to (even though unlimited good can come from well regulated markets).