FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Business-Friendly Corpses

by CHRISTOPHER BRAUCHLI

The difference in the devastation was enormous-so was the difference in the response.

When the nine-story building in Dhaka, Bangladesh, collapsed, 1127 people were killed.  When the fertilizer plant in the town of West, Texas, exploded 15 people died.  The property damage in both places was extensive. Bangladesh has said what it intends to do to try to prevent such future disasters.  So has Texas.

Eight days after the Bangladesh explosion Bangladesh’s prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, told CNN’s Christine Amanpour that there are problems that beset the garment industry in that country (an acknowledgement that seems almost unnecessary given the number of accidents that have taken place there) but said the country was intent on taking steps to improve industry safety there.    (In November 112 people were killed in a factory fire in Dhaka.) The prime minister said that a committee had been formed to make sure buildings and workers were safe and said:  “This committee will submit the findings to the Cabinet committee and, side by side, we have been trying our best to improve the situation.”

There are thousands of textile factories in Bangladesh and safety has long been a concern and a professed priority for the government although its professions have often been more aspirational than realized.  Nonetheless, it is aware of the need to do more than has been done in the past and, as in the past, promises to do better in the future.  A hopeful bit of news appeared when on May 14, 2013 it was announced that global retailers had agreed to a plan to help pay for fire safety and building improvements in Bangladesh.  Texas offers a different perspective on the problem.

On April 17, 2013, the fertilizer plant in West exploded killing 15 people, injuring close to 200 people and damaging or destroying 150 buildings and homes.  By Bangladeshi catastrophe standards it was barely worth reporting on.  Nor did the April 17 explosion hold a candle to the Texas fertilizer explosion on April 16, 1947 that occurred while fertilizer was being loaded onto a freighter in Texas City, Texas.  In that explosion some 581 people were killed, 3,500 were injured and property damages were in the neighborhood of $100 million. Nonetheless, the explosion in West that occurred almost 66 years to the day after the Texas City explosion was not an explosion to be sneezed at, even applying Texas “bigger is better” standards.  What was most remarkable about the West explosion was not the explosion itself but the response of Texas officialdom to it.

According to the New York Times, five days after the explosion Governor Rick Perry was addressing a group of executives of companies he was hoping to lure to Texas because of its low taxes and freedom from regulation.  The Dallas Morning News reported that he told those he was wooing, without further explanation, that spending more money on inspections would not have prevented the explosion. He said that he is comfortable with the state’s level of oversight and explained that people “through their elected officials clearly send the message of their comfort with the amount of oversight.” Chuck DeVore, the vice president of policy at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, agreed with the governor.  He was quoted in the NYT as saying that the wrong response to such a disaster  [West] would be for the state to hire “battalions of government regulators who are deployed into industry and presume to know more about running the factory than the people who own the factory and work there every day. ”  Included among those experts, of course, were the people who owned and worked at the West plant every day.  As if to prove Mr. DeVore’s point, the Houston Chronicle reports that Texas lawmakers have cut funding to those agencies in charge of workplace safety protections.

Like Bangladesh, Texas is not a stranger to terrible accidents in the work place.  The New York Times reports that Texas has more work place casualties than any other state in the country. During each of the past 10 years it has had more than 400 fatalities.  Between 2007 and 2012 fires and explosions at its chemical and industrial plants have inflicted as much property damage as explosions in all the other states combined. Texas has no statewide fire code and by statute small communities may not enact their own.  Some commentators have said that if a fire code had been in place the West explosion might have been prevented.  After the explosion one state legislator introduced a bill that would permit small rural counties to enact fire codes.  The sponsor says he has already heard from business owners that such regulations could be financially burdensome.

The families of the West may think the loss of loved ones and the loss of property are financially burdensome.  Those kinds of losses, however, do not make Texas a less business friendly state. Regulations do that.  Bangladesh is trying to fix the problem that arose because it was too business friendly.  Texas doesn’t believe it has a problem. It will remain business friendly.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
March 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Trump is Obama’s Legacy: Will this Break up the Democratic Party?
Eric Draitser
Donald Trump and the Triumph of White Identity Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nothing Was Delivered
Andrew Levine
Ryan’s Choice
Joshua Frank
Global Coal in Freefall, Tar Sands Development Drying Up (Bad News for Keystone XL)
Anthony DiMaggio
Ditching the “Deep State”: The Rise of a New Conspiracy Theory in American Politics
Rob Urie
Boris and Natasha Visit Fantasy Island
John Wight
London and the Dreary Ritual of Terrorist Attacks
Paul Buhle
The CIA and the Intellectuals…Again
David Rosen
Why Did Trump Target Transgender Youth?
Vijay Prashad
Inventing Enemies
Ben Debney
Outrage From the Imperial Playbook
M. Shadee Malaklou
An Open Letter to Duke University’s Class of 2007, About Your Open Letter to Stephen Miller
Michael J. Sainato
Bernie Sanders’ Economic Advisor Shreds Trumponomics
Bill Willers
Volunteerism; Charisma; the Ivy League Stranglehold: a Very Brief Trilogy
Lawrence Davidson
Moral Failure at the UN
Pete Dolack
World Bank Declares Itself Above the Law
Nicola Perugini - Neve Gordon
Israel’s Human Rights Spies
Patrick Cockburn
From Paris to London: Another City, Another Attack
Ralph Nader
Reason and Justice Address Realities
Ramzy Baroud
‘Decolonizing the Mind’: Using Hollywood Celebrities to Validate Islam
Colin Todhunter
Monsanto in India: The Sacred and the Profane
Louisa Willcox
Grizzlies Under the Endangered Species Act: How Have They Fared?
Norman Pollack
Militarization of American Fascism: Trump the Usurper
Pepe Escobar
North Korea: The Real Serious Options on the Table
Brian Cloughley
“These Things Are Done”: Eavesdropping on Trump
Sheldon Richman
You Can’t Blame Trump’s Military Budget on NATO
Carol Wolman
Trump vs the People: a Psychiatrist’s Analysis
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Marines to Kill Desert Tortoises
Stanley L. Cohen
The White House . . . Denial and Cover-ups
Farhang Jahanpour
America’s Woes, Europe’s Responsibilities
Joseph Natoli
March Madness Outside the Basketball Court
Bruce Mastron
Slaughtered Arabs Don’t Count
Pauline Murphy
Unburied Truth: Exposing the Church’s Iron Chains on Ireland
Ayesha Khan
The Headscarf is Not an Islamic Compulsion
Ron Jacobs
Music is Love, Music is Politics
Christopher Brauchli
Prisoners as Captive Customers
Robert Koehler
The Mosque That Disappeared
Franklin Lamb
Update from Madaya
Dan Bacher
Federal Scientists Find Delta Tunnels Plan Will Devastate Salmon
Barbara Nimri Aziz
The Gig Economy: Which Side Are You On?
Louis Proyect
What Caused the Holodomor?
Max Mastellone
Seeking Left Unity Through a Definition of Progressivism
Charles R. Larson
Review: David Bellos’s “Novel of the Century: the Extraordinary Adventure of Les Misérables”
David Yearsley
Ear of Darkness: the Soundtracks of Steve Bannon’s Films
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail