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Small business, public interests speak out on regulatory debate

flickr photo courtesy of Dan Ribeiro

Something will be missing tomorrow when the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee convenes to discuss proposals to change the way our regulatory system operates: the voices of small business and public interests.

That’s right. The only people speaking tomorrow will be lawmakers (expect some truly awful proposals to be offered) and Cass Sunstein, the regulatory czar for the White House.

So the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards, of which Public Citizen is co-chair, held a telephone press conference this morning to ensure those voices will be heard. It went really well, and the speakers were great. They included Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen; Mike Krajovic, president and CEO of the Fay-Penn Economic Development Council and a member of the steering committee of the American Sustainable Business Council;  Margo Moskowitz, a victim of foodborne illness from Georgia and member of STOP Foodborne Illness; and Cathy Stoddart, a registered nurse at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh and a member of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania.

Here are some points they made:

* Given that the crash of Wall Street, the Massey Energy mine disaster and the BP oil disaster were the result of a lack of public protections, this is the wrong time to be having a conversation about limiting safeguards. The only reason we are having it is that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other Big Business interests are making an effort to push their agenda. Given that they can now give unlimited amounts of money to political campaigns thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling, lawmakers are more likely to listen to them.

* The U.S. Chamber of Commerce does not speak for small businesses. In fact, “The Chamber view of regulation is myopic,” Krajovic said. Small business owners live in their communities and care about the environment and quality of life. They are not so blindly driven by profits that they don’t care about pollution, product safety and so forth.

* Food safety rules are really important, especially if you have been in the emergency room because of food poisoning. Moskowitz told of her harrowing odyssey, which began with a nibble of raw prepared cookie dough, involved time in the hospital and is still going on. She is better but still has relapses. Her illness was traced to E.coli in flour.

* Lots more health care workers would be dying of hepatitis and other bloodborne pathogens had the federal government not put in place rules about using gloves and training people to stay safe. “I’ll tell you what saves us every day: regulations,” Stoddart said.She added, “Regulations don’t kill jobs. A lack of regulations does kill health care workers.”

We also put together some great information about how public protections can actually have a positive effect on jobs, how corporate interests conveniently omit to consider benefits of rules and more.

So there you have it. Stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow, when we expect to hear lawmakers call for measures that would hamstring the ability of federal agencies to protect us from corporate greed. Clearly they have forgotten about the crash of Wall Street, the 29 deceased Massey mine workers and the 11 oil rig workers who lost their lives last year in the Gulf, not to mention all the sea creatures that died horrible deaths after coming into contact with the oil gusher.

Yeah, throwing a wrench into the regulatory system so it comes to a grinding halt, that’s a great idea …