Opinion Columns & Blogs

Only nitwits balk at regulations

I have a few questions for all you folks who screech about big government and over regulation.

How would you like your eggs? Sunny side up?

Worried about turning on the gas stove to heat those babies up?

Planning a trip to the Gulf of Mexico any time soon? Don’t forget to bring the Borax to scrub away the oil and other grime — from your fish.

How’s the bank account? Anything left in there after Big Business finished vacuuming your vacation and retirement funds?

Still think the government over-regulates?

Only a chump could live through the revelations of the past few months and believe that.

I dislike regulation too. I yield to nobody in my disdain for local governments that tell you what shade of ochre to paint your house or how big a sandwich board you can plunk onto the sidewalk to sell your corned beef on rye special.

But I’m not talking about that. I’m talking state and national regulations. Or lack of same.

Every day brings some new revelation of how regulators looked the other way or were in cahoots with the industry they were supposed to regulate. These outrages happen all over the country, but they touch all of us, including those of us on the insular Central Coast.

For example, you may have been sickened, as I was, at the testimony out of Washington last month about nauseating conditions on some of the farms our eggs come from. It raised the age-old question, which came first, the chicken or the salmonella?

The regulators did not do their jobs in that case. Nor have they been doing it in the Appalachians, as a parade of dead miners and their widows can attest.

Do I need to elaborate about BP and the federal “regulators” who let them get away with, literally, murder?

And what about San Bruno? People died as a result of ancient, dangerous pipelines that the people who are supposed to protect us ignored.

I say “supposed to protect us”; perhaps you think that is not government’s job; that we can trust the companies who bring us these various products — oil, gas, food, coal — to look out for our interests.

I’d like to place my faith in them, but the fact is that the people who run these companies have stockholders to take care of. They don’t want anyone to get sick or die. But they’re willing to bet people’s health and lives by cutting corners to save money.

After all, if they lose that gamble, it’s we who pay, not them.

Not to be big brotherish about it, but this is a proper assignment for government: To help us in areas where we don’t have the know-how to help ourselves.

Regulators aren’t doing that, and it is ludicrous to carp about government overregulation.

To me, one of the most dispiriting things about that fact is that it is a case of “plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose,” (the more things change, the more they stay the same).

The revolting egg testimony sent me scurrying to my dog-eared copy of “The Jungle,” Upton Sinclair’s great muck-raking novel of 1905.

Sinclair exposed the excesses of Chicago’s slaughter houses. Here is one excerpt, a description of an “inspector.”

“He was quite willing to enter into conversation with you, and to explain to you the deadly nature of the ptomaines which are found in tubercular pork; and while he was talking with you, you could hardly be so ungrateful as to notice that a dozen carcasses were passing him untouched.”

Did I say Chicago in 1905? It could have been the Midwest or San Bruno in 2010.

So, the next time you have a notion to kvetch about regulations, at least have the presence of mind to complain about the right thing. It’s not too much regulation that’s the problem; it’s too little.