Bush Hits Workers with Chemical Weapons

A warning to readers: this column is obscene. It relates details of an act so depraved that young children should not be exposed to it; even adults will be debased by the contact. The characters described herein exhibit all the human enlightenment and moral engagement of monkeys idly scratching their groins on a hot day at the zoo.

Last November, in one of the innumerable, unnoticed little corruptions that belch forth daily, even hourly, from the geyser of graft that is the Bush Administration, the man who calls himself the president decided that some of the lowliest laborers in America should be left to sicken or die from forced exposure to filthy rags dripping with toxic waste. Why? Because their bosses paid him money.

That’s the only reason. They gave George W. Bush a fat roll of cash, so he gave them protection from laws designed to safeguard workers in industrial laundries who handle “shop towels,” heavy-duty cleaning rags used to mop up poison chemicals, David Donnelly reported last week in Campaign Money Watch.

Just how crude and blatant was this corporate copulation? As Donnelly notes, in September 2003, Richard Farmer, bossman of the nation’s biggest industrial launderer, pitched one of the bribe-orgies known as “campaign fundraisers” for his longtime pal, the Toxic Texan. In a single night, he forked over $1.7 million to Bush. A few weeks later, Bush’s minions at the ever-more ironically named Environmental Protection Agency introduced a new rule that would exempt Farmer’s industry “from federal hazardous and solid waste requirements for shop towels contaminated with toxic chemicals.”

How much quid was this pro quo worth? The EPA says industrial launderers will save more than $30 million a year by ditching safety procedures for their wage slaves, most of them low-paid immigrants. Not a bad return on a $1.7 million investment. But hey, that’s our George for you: he gives great quid.

And Farmer’s certainly no slouch when it comes to putting out quo. He and his company, Cintas, have given more than $2 million to the Bushist Party since it seized power in the court-ordered coup of December 2000. In fact, Farmer is one of Bush’s little “Rangers,” a rank reserved for tycoons who network their connections – and browbeat their employees – into shooting a total wad of at least $200,000 into Bush’s wide-open coffers.

But is the EPA decision really so awful? Will anyone die from it? Probably not; not immediately, anyway. Oh sure, patches of their skin will fall off, their sinuses will rot, their lungs will deteriorate, they’ll be crippled, pain-wracked – and saddled by crushing debt from a rapacious medical system whose measly public benefits were gutted late last year by yet another quid job between Bush and his corporate johns: more than $46 billion siphoned from the public purse to private health plans, as the New York Times reports.

Of course, the laundry workers will also see their cells fill up with a sediment of cancer-causing toxins – but most of these time-bombs of malignancy won’t explode until after Ranger Robert and his fellow Bush barons have squeezed all possible profit from the infected peons’ labor.

And that profit is huge. Farmer, already one of the nation’s richest men, saw his Cintas sweatshop pull down almost $250 million in pure gravy last year alone. Cintas controls a third of the market, so, overall, the towelmongers take home about $750 million in profit annually. You can see how all this safety malarkey – which they’ve been operating under for years – is really cutting into their bottom line. Thank god they’ve finally bought a president who feels their pain!

It’s true that a few malcontents, such as Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, have noted that Bush’s porn-star turn for the shop-towel bosses will also harm another group: the general public. The new EPA rule will allow the bosses to process 100,000 tons of toxic solvents – which will then find their way into the rivers, streams and groundwater of the surrounding communities. Not to worry, though: Farmer’s sweatshop empire has a sterling record of environmental husbandry and concern for community health. For example, one of his Connecticut plants has been cited a mere 250 times for violations that can cause “death or serious physical harm,” including “excessive emissions of cancer-causing solvents” and “serious lapses in worker training, hazardous material handling and protective equipment.”

But any real people affected by the Ranger’s runoff – nice white people with office jobs, suburban homes and “Bush-Cheney ’04” stickers on their Jeep Cherokees – can probably afford a good private health plan, right? As for the laundry workers, who cares? If God wanted to protect them from unregulated poisons and brutal exploitation, then why didn’t He arrange to have them born into wealthy families grown fat from generations of war profiteering and crony stroking like the divinely appointed Leader, hmm? You going to argue with God?

No – but you can still argue with Bush. His Ranger-romping rule is not yet final; the EPA “comment phase” is open until April 9. Why not go to <www.epa.gov> and tell them what you think? (They don’t make it easy, but follow the “Laws, Regulations and Dockets” link through “EPA Dockets,” then “View Open Dockets,” then “Docket ID RCRA-2003-0004.”)

Will it do any good? Of course not! A man so depraved that he’d kill 10,000 innocent people in a loot-gobbling war crime – and joke about it, as Bush did recently at a public tryst with media bigwigs – won’t blush at a pipsqueak scam like the shop-towel caper. But at least you can tell him to stop scratching his graft-infested groin so blatantly. Children might be watching.

CHRIS FLOYD is a columnist for the Moscow Times and a regular contributor to CounterPunch. His CounterPunch piece on Rumsfeld’s plan to provoke terrorist attacks came in at Number 4 on Project Censored’s final tally of the Most Censored stories of 2002. He can be reached at: cfloyd72@hotmail.com



Chris Floyd is a columnist for CounterPunch Magazine. His blog, Empire Burlesque, can be found at www.chris-floyd.com. His twitter feed is @empireburlesque. His Instagram is www.instagram.com/cfloydtn/.