Almost daily, big industry’s top executives are demanding a moratorium or drastic slowdown in the country’s efforts to advance the health and safety of its citizens.
Albert W. Turner was once an executive with Southern California Gas Co. Today, as chairman of the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board, he has lashed out at industrial and commercial criticism of the federal Job Health and Safety Standards.
“The reason for the federal law,” Turner said, “was that a significant number of employers and state governments were openly neglecting, the safety and health of workers and were extremely reluctant to spend the money necessary to provide a reasonable degree of protection.”
COMPANIES are still reluctant. What’s more, led by the callous U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other trade associations, industry is trying to link the worker health and safety movement to the inflationary-recessionary problems of the economy.
Like auto safety and pollution control standards, job safety and the environment are emerging handy scapegoats for business mismanagement of the economy.
What easier way is there to focus public attention on the “big bad feds” in Washington and to divert attention from the waste-ridden, oversubsidized, excessively concentrated terrain of big business? Some shareholders or reporters might otherwise get the idea that those un-laid-off corporate executives were incompetent and unable to really start competing over who can best serve, instead of gouge, the consumer.
Rather than striving for some old-fashioned Yankee ingenuity; these executive millionaires are spending more and more time in Washington urging bigger amounts of existing corporate welfare (tax credits and other relief) and a safe ty moratorium.
ON DEC. 16, Henry Ford II and Ford President Lee Iacocca were meeting privately with the Michigan congressional delegation in the morning and the Republican House and Senate leaders in the afternoon. GM’s chairman, Thomas Murphy, has been lobbying in Washington also.
In the meantime, Ford ignores a large group of its dealers who are asking the company to lower its new-car prices $200 to $400 to stop declining sales.
BUT THE PRICE increases continue. When the seatbelt interlock was taken off recently, the auto companies did not reduce the price of their cars by $S0 to $90 which they said was the price increase attributed to that system last year. This resulted in a hidden price increase, despite recent leveling off or declining of metals prices charg ed by the auto industry’s suppliers.
Next year; Congress needs to initiate comprehensive economic, environmental and health programs by showing how beneficially related they can be to one another.
For example, as Environmental Protection Agency Chief Russell E. Train declared interests converge to put a premium upon greater and greater efficiency in’ the industrial process — a new efficiency which can, at one and the same time, cuts costs, conserve energy and curb pollution — a new efficiency which I am convinced can help attack our inflation problem.”
Carl Gerstacher of Dow Chemical has spoken of the profits his company derives from controlling its chemical pollutants. Others have noted that environmental expenditures create jobs, markets, health and a more promising future. The amount of money the economy must spend to win the pollution battle over the next 20 years is less than Americans will spend on alcohol.
WHAT MADNESS comes forth from corporate suites which tell the people that they cannot afford less than five percent of pre-tax corporate taxes for tax-subsidized investments to prevent cancer, respiratory diseases, harmful mutations and other destructions of health solidly associated with industrial chemicals, gases, particulates and other injurious emissions? Can anything have a higher priority when so much of their expenditures go to waste, trivia, junk and inefficiency?
What, after all, is the purpose of an economic system, if it is not, first and foremost, to safeguard the health and safety of its people?
The scapegoat strategy of industry and commerce, designed to divert attention from the concentrated corporate economy and its management, may get some quick headlines now. But when Congress convenes next month, these same executives may receive invitations to come up and publicly testify with disclosures of cost, productivity and other data they are not presenting in their private huddles on Capitol Hill.