Feds under fire for rollbacks
By Joe Baker, Senior Editor
Consumer, environmental, and health advocacy groups have opened fire on the Bush administration for allegedly using the Iraq war and terrorist attacks abroad to mask rollbacks in needed domestic regulations.
The administration contends it is simply getting rid of unnecessary, costly and restrictive rules that are impeding business.
Most recently, there was the FCC decision to toss out the cross-ownership rules, allowing a single company to own most or all of the media outlets in a given market. It passed 3-2 on a party-line vote.
The Bush camp said the old rules are outdated because now we have new outlets for information and entertainment such as the Internet and satellite TV. Critics argue the new stance will erode local control and put media power in the hands of a very few.
Labor unions are charging the administration is trying to weaken or destroy worker protections. The Congress is about to vote on legislation that would gut the 40-hour week and eliminate overtime pay. Instead, workers would get compensatory time, if and when the employer was ready to grant it. The GOP majority in the House has taken the bill off the agenda for the moment.
Workers also are angry over proposed changes in some pension plans. Union leaders say the new plans would give companies more pretexts to take away workers benefits.
Environmentalists are decrying several recent actions by the Bush regime. One of them is to exempt the Defense Department from rules protecting endangered animals and plans. The DOD says the rules are too tough to observe.
The administration also intends to renew hydropower dam licenses without requiring the power companies to meet new environmental rules aimed at safeguarding endangered species of fish.
The Bush group also lifted a ban on snowmobiles in Yellowstone National Park. Clintons administration had barred them when studies showed they cause air and noise pollution and are harmful to wildlife.
Standards for clean air were lowered for power plants or industries upgrading their facilities. The Bush regime says this will bring more plants on line.
Oil and gas companies also were exempted from new rules meant to prevent storm-water runoff from construction sites from polluting nearby lakes and streams with chemicals and metals.
The administration also carried a vote in the House that would allow more tree-cutting in deep forests. It said this would prevent forest fires. Opponents say it will do little or nothing to prevent fires but much to bolster timber industry profits.
The Food and Drug Administration, faced with deciding between consumer safety and big business profits, opted to hire outside consultants to speed new drugs to market even though they may not be fully tested.