If the “manufacturing” of America had come with a safety label, I’m pretty sure it would NOT have read “After 240 years, begin DECONSTRUCTION OF THE ADMINISTRATIVE STATE.”
Yet one month into the 45th President’s term, Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon, informed the Washington Post that the administration is in “an unending battle for deconstruction of the administrative state.”
Bannon went on to explain that their mission is to dismantle existing systems, taxes, trade deals, and regulations. In other words, they plan to unravel or rip apart much of the fabric that has kept the United States of America united for nearly two and a half centuries and a leader of the free world since WWII.
Granted, the administrative state is not a model of efficiency. It’s not supposed to be. A country is not a for-profit business. The administrative state consists of unelected, career professionals serving to protect our democracy. In addition to protecting the country against threats foreign and domestic, they protect the citizenry against elected officials unilaterally and perhaps recklessly shifting the direction and values of the nation.
For six months, I have kept my head from exploding over the potential safety repercussions of dismantling systems and regulations by repeatedly telling myself that Bannon’s words were more swagger than substance and no rational President would or could act to dismantle his own country’s core. Unfortunately, recent statements, actions and events have taught me to stop underestimating the President’s autocratic instincts, nearsightedness, and mercurial might.
Bannon is gone… but so is the U.S. commitment to the Paris Climate Accord and keeping the planet’s environment safe. His fellow deconstructionist, Sebastian Gorka, has since been terminated as an inside the White House influencer… but also terminated are a multitude of business regulations attached to worker safety and consumer safeguards. The President may have delegated awesome responsibilities to “his generals,” but he ultimately holds the title Commander in Chief. Despite five military deferments, he behaves as if the title gives him the right to command all nations. He has attempted to force his will on Mexico, China, Canada, the European Union, Australia and North Korea by employing carrots and sticks, impatiently and erratically jeopardizing world safety and stability.
So that’s the big picture of where safety is trending in the first half year in the days of deconstruction. Let’s delve a little deeper into the details of safety relating to climate, business/workplace/community, and international conflicts.
FACT, and yes this is a fact: somewhere between 90% and 99.9% of accredited scientists say the earth is “warming fast, and that all the heat- trapping emissions we release into the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels is changing our climate.” (http://www.ucsusa.org/scientists-agree-global-warming-happening-humans-primary-cause#.Waw1r62ZMsl). Yes, you will read and hear from certain “news” outlets and politicians that the verdict is still out on climate change or there’s nothing humans can do about it. Those outliers are either misguided or skillfully guided by industry lobbyists paid to put profits before people. When President Trump ended the U.S. commitment to the Paris Climate Accord, he more than suggested it was because it was not good for business interests. Of the world’s 198 nations that puts us into a minority of 3.
Here’s what famed physicist and often acclaimed world’s smartest person, Stephen Hawking, had to say on July 2, one month after the President’s decision:
“By denying the evidence for climate change, and pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement, Donald Trump will cause avoidable environmental damage to our beautiful planet, endangering the natural world, for us and our children.”
Less than three months after our withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, nature sent President Trump a painful reminder of what’s in store for Earth’s climate in the form of Hurricane Harvey. While Harvey set an all-time record for rainfall on the U.S. mainland, drought-driven record breaking fires burned in Los Angeles and consistently cool San Francisco baked in record breaking 106° temperatures. Across the globe “the worst floods in decades” have been ravaging India, Bangladesh and Nepal since June. In safety terms, those floods, and Harvey’s, have taken over 1,200 human lives and displaced millions.
Meteorologists and climatologists have been warning us for years that the warming of the oceans will cause greater extremes in weather. Yet days before Harvey’s “thousand year” floods overwhelmed the flatlands of Houston and surrounds, President Trump executive-ordered away a number of flood standards in an attempt to get infrastructure projects approved more quickly. Ignoring the facts and scientific forecasts about Earth’s changing climate makes everyone less safe.
WORKPLACE and COMMUNITY…
Texas is well-known for its “business friendly” policies and practices regarding the environment. Due to that “friendliness,” citizens of Crosby, Texas were not sure what chemical fumes they were inhaling as the Arkema fire, a byproduct of Harvey, spewed toxic smoke into the air for days. Since 2014, Texas plants have not been required to publicly post the names and dangers of their chemicals to the public. Then Lt. Governor Greg Abbott, now governor, told curious citizens they could drive around “ask every facility if they have chemicals or not.” That didn’t rile Texans nearly as much as it riled me. It should have since some day
down the road the health effects of breathing toxic air and wading through polluted flood waters will take its toll on a good percentage of Harvey’s victims. By the way, it doesn’t take an historic storm to create chemical havoc. The U.S. gets hit by more than 100 chemical explosions or releases yearly. Removing business constraints will not lower that number. Deregulating or ignoring potential hazards does not make our workplaces and communities more prosperous in the long run when loss of life or major health crises are calculated into the equation.
The many other business deregulations enacted or in the works by the current administration are too numerous to list here. The President campaigned on and is carrying through on his pledge “to make doing business and growing profits easier.” And he will… until something – like Harvey, Katrina, Sandy, Exxon Valdez, Bhopal, Chernobyl, Love Canal… – happens. Natural disasters and human mistakes happen. Frequently. The deconstruction of the administrative state will increase the frequency and the likelihood that when they happen, they will hit with greater force and produce more devastating direct and collateral damage.
The word deconstruction would not have entered my streets of my Jersey vocabulary, but looking back on my first 34 years, I may have been a deconstructionist. Dodging rules and regulations was the way I lived and worked. Rules were for the other guy. Regulations blocked progress. And, the fastest, easiest way was the best way to get something done. No one knew how to get things done better than I did. I was absolutely sure nothing could go wrong on my job… until it did.
Nearing the end of a double shift in the wee hours of a summer morning in New Jersey, I took a shortcut around a safety regulation. I blew up a good part of the oil refinery I’d been working in for fifteen years and totally blew up my life. I spent five years in hospitals and lost everything I loved, including my family. For what?… To get the job done a few minutes quicker.
I have spent the last 37 years of my life trying to persuade others not to make the mistakes I made; not to have the attitude that “nothing can go wrong.”
LOOMING INTERNATIONAL CONFLICT…
Probably the most daunting concern I have about safety is in the arena you and I have the least control over. International conflicts. The President’s bellicose threats to the perpetually pugnacious North Korean regime have triggered an accelerated effort by the D.R.N.K. to attain nuclear military status. Anyone who doesn’t think a game of chicken between Kim Jung Un and Donald John Trump is a safety issue probably has first class tickets on the next shuttle leaving the planet.
Denying climate change, eliminating safety regulations, tweeting about nuking another country, I fear that President Trump thinks like I did before I blew up the refinery. “My instincts are always right. I’m smarter than everyone else. The fastest and most unencumbered way is the best way. Nothing can go wrong.” He’ll be right, until something goes wrong. And, it will. It always does.
When it does, will America be able to survive five years in hospitals?… Will America be able to endure the mental anguish of ruining its families?… Will America’s leader take responsibility?… I pray we never have to find out.
Rules and regulations, scientifically supported policies and procedures that seem unnecessary still annoy the hell out of me. But I follow them. My accident taught me that rules and regulations save lives, prevent accidents, minimize disasters. My accident taught me that my life isn’t just about me. Overconfidence that leads to unnecessarily risky decisions destroys the ones we love. My accident taught me to consider my coworkers, family, friends and community in every action I take. Most importantly, it taught me to TAKE PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY FOR MY LIFE. I have been spreading that message spanning four decades.
Will our President TAKE PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY for any disaster that rises out of the ashes of deregulation, climate change or massive military confrontation?… Hint: has he taken personal responsibility for anything that has gone wrong yet?
More importantly, are you ready to take responsibility for your life on these vital safety issues facing every American citizen and possibly impacting the entire world?… If so, don’t put your well-intended trust in shortcuts, simple platitudes, unachievable promises and the deconstruction of what has taken two hundred and forty years to build. Don’t get “faked out” by someone who claims that “I alone can fix it.” The graveyards of history are littered with false prophets and thundering demagogues, and their faithful followers.
Read. Research. Think deep. Think wide. Think forward. Then stand up, speak out and vote with a clear head rather than an angry heart.
Take responsibility for your life.