Race to the Top not the Bottom

We shouldn’t be in a race to the bottom, where we try to offer the cheapest labor and the worst pollution standards.  America should be in a race to the top.  And I believe we can win that race. --- President Barack Obama

The government benefits we take for granted, such as roads, sewers, and a reliable electricity grid, would not exist without government action.  Some things, like fighting wars and cleaning the air, simply cannot be left up to individuals.  With the anti-government rhetoric reaching a silly and historic pitch, the necessity of regulations and the benefits we all derive from them seem to get loss in the media.

America has a long history of coming together in times of need to ensure the safety and security of fellow citizens.  In President Obama’s address to the nation on jobs a few weeks ago, ­­he reiterated the importance of national unity in solving the nation’s multi-faceted problems.  This is a time in our country’s history that requires a national plan to rebuild and grow. 

            In an increasingly complex world, the government is responsible for a web of safeguards. The federal government has the responsibility to protect individual citizens from dangers they cannot protect themselves from.  For example, the Food and Drug Administration needs to regulate large factory farms to prevent salmonella and e coli outbreaks because individuals lack the resources to ensure that the food they buy is not tainted  The government also  needs to limit the amount of lead in children’s toys and the amount of mercury in the air children breathe. 

 It is the job of corporations to increase their profits as much as possible. In an effort to accomplish this, they have begun to argue that they know what’s best for the health and safety of the American people. Unfortunately, that just isn’t true. In Montcoal, West Virginia, 25 families are grieving after Massey Energy failed to safeguard their workers.  In San Bruno, California a pipeline explosion left 8 families grieving the death of their loved ones, dozens nursing their injured back to health, and 55 with damaged homes. Pacific Gas & Electric Company chose to use a more dangerous type of valve on the pipeline, instead of the remote valve that even the company itself recognized is safer. A new study by the Department of Energy reiterates early findings that BP’s determination to cut corners in order to maximize profit was responsible for the devastation in the Gulf and the loss of 11 workers and thousands of jobs.  These are a few of the many tragic situations that could have been prevented if common-sense safety regulations had been in place.

President Obama was correct when he said:

[W] hat we can’t do -- what I will not do -- is let this economic crisis be used as an excuse to wipe out the basic protections that Americans have counted on for decades.  I reject the idea that we need to ask people to choose between their jobs and their safety.  I reject the argument that says for the economy to grow, we have to roll back protections that ban hidden fees by credit card companies, or rules that keep our kids from being exposed to mercury, or laws that prevent the health insurance industry from shortchanging patients.  I reject the idea that we have to strip away collective bargaining rights to compete in a global economy.  In fact, this larger notion that the only thing we can do to restore prosperity is just dismantle government, refund everybody’s money, and let everyone write their own rules, and tell everyone they’re on their own -- that’s not who we are.  That’s not the story of America.   

             This statement is not debatable.  It is something the Administration, however, needs to repeat and promote.