Soft-Boiled Regs

By Kaplan, Sheila | The Washington Monthly, December 1991 | Go to article overview

Soft-Boiled Regs


Kaplan, Sheila, The Washington Monthly


Back in the days when the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) kept itself busy by drafting directives specifying the height of the nation's fire extinguishers and the width of its toilet seats, it was easy for voters to be taken in when Ronald Reagan bemoaned the total cost of all federal regulation - "all waste," as he once put it, "due to regulatory overkill." It was easy for them to chuckle when he took a lighter tack: "If the federal government had been around when the Creator was putting his hand to this state, Indiana wouldn't be here. It'd still be waiting for an environmental impact statement."

These days, though, it's hard to live with the consequences. Maybe fire extinguishers come in all shapes and sizes, but so do the tumors in kids who grow up near areas like the Brio refining site in Texas, where Reagan's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), less interested in freeing the hand of the Creator than that of big business, settled for a face-lift rather than an aggressive cleanup of toxic wastes left by corporate polluters. In the late eighties, outrage over failures like Brio and the $500 billion S&L collapse revealed that Americans have a slightly more complicated view of regulation than Reagan may have thought: They might have wanted government off their own backs, but they sure as hell wanted it to stay on the backs of those who might steal their savings, wreck their health, or maim their kids.

In fact, it's astounding in retrospect that voters let Reagan get away with attacking all regulation, as though one could simply wipe the books clean. You don't have to be Ralph Nader to understand that people need rules. Just as laws define the bounds of society (you can't shoot your enemies), regulations define the bounds of the marketplace (you can't sell nuclear bombs). And just as police are supposed to nab criminals, regulators are supposed to nail violators of market rules.

In practice, these theoretical distinctions become meaningless. Whether you kill somebody by driving recklessly or by marketing a deadly drug, you should wind up in prison just the same. Somehow, though, as we all got tough on crime in the eighties, cops became pop culture heroes while regulators became pests - until one day Americans looked up and realized the Charles Keatings had eaten our lunch.

Maybe this explains why, when federal marshals seized 2,000 crates of Citrus Hill Fresh Choice orange juice, the crackdown was such big news, hyped by the networks and The New York Times. But while the administration has come down hard on the orange juice menace and gotten great publicity as a result, it is quietly letting much greater hazards go unchecked. Yes, there have been some tentative steps toward reregulation. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has accelerated the implementation of rules to make light vans and trucks safer. OSHA and the EPA have taken more enforcement actions against the most blatant corporate crooks. The Federal Trade Commission is looking into business mergers more carefully. And the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has finally cracked down on the generic drug industry.

But such accomplishments have been piecemeal, lacking central direction. As Newsweek reported last year, after reading newspaper accounts of business fears over a possible new regulatory crackdown, Bush sent a note to John Sununu: What's going on? The free-market ideologues in the White House - in particular Sununu and Dan Quayle, operating through his Council on Competitiveness - have tried hard to undercut any push in the ranks toward reregulation. Indeed, the vaunted orange juice assault itself was less the result of regulators' concern for little kids than of a concerted lobbying effort by Citrus Hill's competitors. A look at some of the other deeds behind the words of this administration reveals that, when it comes to regulation in the Bush era, it's pretty much business as usual. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Soft-Boiled Regs
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.