Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Unscrupulous industry engages in amoral business practices, uses its political influence to block meaningful reform and neutralize its regulators, catastrophe ensues. Lather, rinse, repeat.
The health care industry avoided accountability for exorbitant rate hikes, overmarketed and undertested products, and rescission of insurance coverage for trivial reasons. They killed the public option, and the reform bill that was supposed to rein them in turned into a bailout instead.
The financial industry looks like it’s going to avoid accountability for crashing the economy with dodgy financial instruments while regulators looked the other way; instead of fines and jail time, they got a $700 billion bailout. It appears unlikely that they’re going to be subjected to any meaningful reform either.
And now 25 Massey Energy miners are dead because OSHA couldn’t do anything more than levy fines for the thousands of safety violations at Upper Big Branch, and Don Blankenship decided he would rather pay than address worker safety.
These are just the most recent and high-profile examples of a business community implacably and successfully opposed to regulation and oversight in general. As dday puts it in his post on OSHA’s enfeeblement:
The Reagan revolution ushered out real enforcement of industry and ushered in industry capture or resource starvation. This has continued largely unchecked until today.
In any kind of sane and rational world, no industry would be allowed to write its own regulations or choose its own regulators, or to pressure the government into starving oversight agencies… but that is exactly what has happened, over and over and over again. And our elected officials allow this not because it’s good for the country, or good for their constituents. They allow it because corporations can deliver more money to their campaign, or to their spouse, or to their life after government than we can.
To put it another way: The Chamber of Commerce and all the industry lobbyists don’t win because they’re smarter than we are, or better organized than we are, or better messagers than we are. They win because they have more money to promise to their friends, and to the enemies of their enemies. Campaign finance is the means by which the system is gamed, and until we find a way to fix this institutionalized corruption, we will continue to see an endless parade of pro-corporate Democrats pushing pro-corporate sham bills that reform nothing.