If I told you that government officials possessed ironclad proof that an imminent threat to this nation had the capacity to create a 9/11′s worth of injuries and deaths every year at an annual economic cost of a quarter trillion dollars, ask yourself: Would you say we should do something about it?
I’m guessing you would. Out of a basic sense of patriotism, you would probably at minimum support some new security regulations and investments in enforcing those regulations, even if that meant paying slightly higher taxes. After all, you profess to love America, and that’s the least we should do in the face of such a threat to our country, right?
Now ask yourself: Would your response to the original query change if you discovered that the threat at hand was not from a terrorist, but from unsafe workplaces — and that because of that unaddressed problem, these casualties and costs have already become a fact of life in America? Come on, admit it — your response probably would change. Yes, many who would reflexively support more regulations and enforcement in the face of a foreign terrorist threat would suddenly scoff at more regulations and enforcement in the face of unsafe workplaces. Why the double standard?
~ from America’s Greatest Threat: Unsafe Work Conditions by David Sirota ~
I have held onto this Sirota column for a month because I knew it wouldn't be that long before we had another deadly accident in the workplace. Right on cue, there have been two explosions with fatalities and injuries -- both in Louisiana -- within the past two days. The first one happened on Thursday in Geismar at a chemical plant. One person died and 73 were injured. The very next day a nitrogen plant only 10 miles from the chemical plant exploded resulting in one death and 7 injured.
While Americans tend to be more worried and frightened by potential terrorist attacks, far more people die each year at work -- often because of greed and lax safety standards. Sirota is right to ask "Why the double standard?"
It is an easy question to answer. Our political leaders drive the unrealistic fear of imminent terrorism, while covering up for the shortcomings of workplace safety. Terrorism is a moneymaker for the elite. Worker safety is a cost. Faced with the choice of making oodles of money versus spending it, corporations and their political lackeys almost always choose the former.