Exhibit A for Why Government Should Not Be Run Like a Business
Business and politics don’t mix.
And when they do, the public pays the price.
Consider the case of Michael Taylor. A former lawyer for Monsanto, Taylor worked as the FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Policy during the first Bush administration, where he helped write the rules that to this day allow companies like Monsanto to sell their GMO products without any real regulations.
Not surprisingly, Monsanto rewarded Taylor with a nice job as the company’s Vice President for Public Policy once he left office.
In 2009, Taylor returned to the FDA, where he now serves as its Deputy Commissioner for Foods.
How’s that for a revolving door?
Oh, and let’s not forget former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson. As Wall Street’s bubble exploded in 2008, the former Goldman Sachs executive made sure his former employer got the heads up about Fannie Mae’s oncoming bankruptcy.
Or how about Tom Wheeler, the former Telecom lobbyist and current FCC chair who’s refusing right now to regulate the internet as a common carrier, something that could keep it open and free for generations.
Who knows, if Wheeler keeps this up, he might get a cushy Comcast gig once he leaves his FCC post.
Those were just some obvious examples, but I think you get the point.
Businesses do have a role to play in our society.
But because they’re ultimately only interested in making a profit, the government needs to keep businesses in check with a firewall of regulation.
And when that firewall is breached, as it has been time and time again by people like Michael Taylor. Hank Paulson, and Tom Wheeler, the results are devastating.
In the case of North Carolina right now, the results are literally disastrous.
When Republican Governor Pat McCrory- who for twenty-eight years was an executive at Duke Energy, the nation’s largest utility, took over the North Carolina governor’s mansion last year, he said it was time for change in how the state regulated energy companies.
He said the state’s environmental regulatory agencies should focus more on “customer service.”
In other words, they should make it easier for companies like Duke Energy to get around the rules, or just ignore it when they break the rules.
Under McCrory’s watch, North Carolina slashed the budget for water pollution programs and shrank the size of state watchdog agencies.
In February, all this came to a head when a retired power plant owned by the Governor’s former employer, Duke Energy, spilled 39,000 tons of toxic and cancerous waste into the Dan River.
Those 39,000 tons contained chemicals like arsenic, selenium, and lead that are known to cause cancer and birth defects.
Clean up of this spill, which was the third worst coal ash spill in history, will take years, and cost the public a fortune.
And that doesn’t even begin to look at the cost of all the death and disease that both humans and wildlife downstream will experience over the coming years.
There might be some light at the end of the tunnel, however.
Over the past few weeks, North Carolinians have learned in a very “in their face” way about their governor’s shady connection to the energy industry.
And on Tuesday, a federal grand jury started hearing evidence on whether state regulators helped out Duke Energy in the wake of the Dan River spill.
McCrory was able to shut down the state’s regulators, but he can’t stop the Feds.
This is getting interesting.