Putting Public Health and Safety First

By Allison Cairo
Deputy Director

Over the years, Americans have demanded - and learned to count on - government safeguards to protect the air we breathe and the food we eat. Unfortunately, a slew of proposed anti-regulatory bills targeting government safeguards are putting Pennsylvanians at risk. 

The Regulatory Freeze for Jobs Act, H.R. 4078, is expected to come up for a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives in the next week and would prohibit federal agencies from updating existing safeguards or creating new ones while unemployment remains high. The rationale for this deceptively named legislation is that business is being prevented from creating the new jobs Pennsylvanians so desperately need by overzealous government. 

There is no evidence that government regulations are to blame for our current economic woes, or that they are hampering efforts to dig ourselves out from the recession. Reliable studies indicate that most new federal regulations either result in no change in job numbers, or modest increases in employment - because businesses need to hire additional people or buy new equipment in order to comply with new regulations. 

Employers tend to agree. Since 2007, the U.S. government has asked employers whether they attribute “extended mass job layoffs” to government “regulations/intervention.” Over this period, employers reported that in only three out of every thousand cases were people laid off as a result of new government regulations. 

When small business owners are asked to name their greatest challenge during the current economic crisis, they overwhelmingly report lack of consumer demand (a result of the recession), not government regulations, as their chief concern. Indeed, the true causes of the recession are exactly the opposite of what the supporters of H.R. 4078 suggest.  A lack of regulation of financial service firms caused the current recession and the recent trading losses by JPMorgan Chase, estimated now at over $5 billion, underscore the need for more regulations to protect consumers, not less.

While there is no evidence that stopping government from creating new regulatory safeguards or updating existing ones will lead to more jobs, there is plenty of reason to think that completely suspending the normal role of government in safeguarding the public will lead to thousands of preventable deaths and hundreds of thousands of illnesses.

In Pennsylvania alone, the impact of delaying just three important upcoming rules by one year would mean:

    • As many as 414,000 additional cases of food poisoning from contaminated produce. These illnesses could have been prevented had food processors been required to follow new safety procedures scheduled to be introduced by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
    • Pennsylvania children will experience as many as 84,539 additional asthma attacks. These asthma attacks could have been prevented had polluters been required to comply with stricter standards on poisonous soot emissions scheduled to be introduced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Soot particles from diesel vehicles and coal-fired power plants are so small that our bodies’ natural defenses, coughing and sneezing, cannot protect us against them. They are inhaled and lodge deep within the lungs. Children, because their lungs are still developing and they spend more time outdoors, are particularly susceptible to becoming sick from these tiny particles. 
    • 78,030 newly diagnosed cancer patients in Pennsylvania would be at risk of being denied health insurance because insurance companies would be allowed to delay the Affordable Care Act requirement that they cover everyone regardless of any pre-existing health condition. 

Pennsylvanians want to see the economy come back, but we reject the claim that we must choose between the health of our economy and the government safeguards that assure the health of our families.

For more information, check our our report, "Pennsylvania Lives at Risk."


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