Safety agencies need to be impartial

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By Merilee Dannemann

The explosion of the fertilizer plant in the small town of West, Texas, a few weeks ago, killed dozens of people, injured many more, and blew the walls off numbers of buildings. Has that affected your thinking about how to reduce the cost of government?
Texas Gov. Rick Perry commented in a televised interview that maybe we need to consider toughening the regulations on the storage of such dangerous chemicals.
That’s the same Rick Perry who, as a presidential candidate, famously called for the elimination of three major federal agencies and couldn’t remember one of them. Eliminating government excess sounds a whole lot easier in fuzzy generalities than in the wake of a tragedy.
Shall we reduce the staffing of the agencies that enforce the regulation of the storage of explosive chemicals? Regulations generally are effective only when regulatory agencies are capable of enforcing them. Do you need more evidence? Think back to Wall Street, 2008, and policies based on the belief — expressed by the former chairman of the Federal Reserve, among others — that the financial industry would regulate itself.

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