Regulations that save lives or protect workers are useless rocks in a knapsack?

New chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Darrell Issa was on Chris Wallace’s Fox News Sunday show and once again put up the great lie about regulations.  The dirty fuel companies, who have become major funders of the tea partiers, have convinced many Republicans, that environmental and health standards have no benefits but are placed on corporations to increase costs for no reason whatsoever.  Issa compares regulations to rocks in a knapsack:

I think we're going to be in a constant battle over jobs and the economy. My father-in-law was an Air Force pilot, and he used to say when there was a problem that stopped him from doing something, oh, another rock in my knapsack.

But as a pilot, he understood every bit of weight you put on is a fuel you don't have. It's a distance you don't go. You wouldn't want to be bomber pilot over the English Channel and find out you have too many rocks and not enough fuel. We have about $1.7 trillion worth of regulatory costs already in the government. If the president wants to throw another $300 or $400 billion, what he's doing is taking it right out of businesses, right out of employment, right out of competitiveness. We need to make sure we compete. People always talk about China. We need to compete against Brazil and against Europe.  [full transcript here]

The George W. Bush Administration tried to prove the big lie that regulations were wasteful.  What they proved was the opposite – that environmental standards, particularly those required under the Clean Air Act, had health benefits that were significantly greater than their costs. For the ten years from 1997-2007, the Bush White House estimated  that EPA regulations promulgated during those years cost between $32 billion and $35 billion.  But the health benefits, were between $83 billion and $592 billion, a rate of return of 2.5 to 1 to 16 to 1! Full report  at page 5.

Most of these benefits were in reduced health care cost, increased life expectancy, decreases in asthma, reduced lost workdays and safer working conditions. These are not “rocks” in the knapsack.   These “rocks” are the maps, the weather report, and the radio. They are common sense requirements that government must do. 

Companies are in competition with one another.  One will not put on costly pollution controls voluntarily when their competitors are letting the population pay the cost of its pollution controls through shorter lives and higher health care costs caused by their pollution.  Regulatory standards level the playing field.  And these regulatory standards can have substantial economic stimulative impacts, as my colleague David Goldstein has written about for years.

Mr. Issa,  ask your corporate special interests not just about the cost of regulations but also ask about the myriad economic and health benefits we will lose if those standards don’t go into effect.  You may be surprised.  And Chris Wallace and the other Sunday news show hosts, PLEASE follow up the big lie with the facts.