Mike Elk is a labor journalist and staff writer for In These Times
WASHINGTON D.C.—This week, Congress passed a debt-ceiling deal that is expected to reduce the deficit by at least $2.1 trillion over the next 10 years. The debt deal sets up a “supercommitee,” which will identify $1.5 trillion in additional cuts by Thanksgiving. Congress will then vote on the recommendations in an "up or down" vote—no amendments allowed.
The committee will be comprised of six Democrats and six Republicans from both chambers of Congress. It's unclear who is going to be on the committee, but Justin Feldman, health and safety advocate for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division, is sure who shouldn't get the nod: Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla), who was part of the bipartisan "Gang of Six" that tried to forge a compromise on the budget ceiling last month.
Coburn has signled out cutting the Occupational Health and Safety Agency’s budget as a key priorities of his. Back in July, Coburn published a deficit reduction plan called “Back in Black,” which called for $72.6 million in cuts to the federal agency, which is part of the Labor Department. The report calls for eliminating OSHA community workforce training programs, cutting back on worksite inspections by OSHA inspectors, and focusing resources on voluntary safety programs.
"We fear OSHA cuts may come out of the supercommittee. Sen. Coburn’s proposal would weaken OSHA and put workers’ lives in danger,” Feldman says. “The report bends facts to conform to an anti-regulatory bent.”
Feldman alleges that Coburn report misrepresents the nature of OSHA’s work. “Attempting to show evidence of inefficiency at the agency, the report incorrectly asserts that the number of OSHA inspections declined between 2008 and 2010, a time when the agency’s budget was growing. OSHA’s official statistics, however, show that the number of inspections actually increased by 6 percent during this period,” says Feldman.
Also, Feldman charges Coburn with falsely representing a Government Accountabiltiy Office report (PDF) as evidence that voluntary safety programs are effective. Feldman alleges the report actually states that such program “have never been properly evaluated.”
Senator Coburn’s office did not return requests for comment.
Currently, OSHA has a budget of only $558.6 million. Many public health and safety advocates say that that figure doesn't leave OSHA with the resources needed to adequately inspect work places. There are only 2,218 inspectors at both the federal and state level who inspect 7.3 million workplaces employing more than 135 million workers. (That's one inspector for every 57,984 workers.) At this rate, OSHA can inspect a workplace on average once every 129 years and state OSHA inspectors could inspect one every 67 years. For a country the size of the United States, health and safety experts say you need at least 12,000 inspectors, six times more inspectors than OSHA current has, in order to properly inspect America’s workplaces.
Coburn’s proposed $72.6 million in cuts to OSHA would cut the agency’s $558.6 million budget by nearly 15 percent—making the workplace safety inspection force even more inadequate, Feldman says.
“The cuts Tom Coburn proposes would be absolutely devastating to the agency,” he says.
Crossposted from the Working blog of In These Times
April 22nd, 2014
FRANCIS RICHARD MOORE, 92, of FLINT/DAVISON, MI Passed away on Saturday, April 19, 2014, in Escondido, CAHe was Frank to all who knew and loved him, and there were many. ...
January 28th, 2014
In the State of the Union address tonight, President Obama is going to call for a national minimum wage of $10.10. Then in their response ...
January 21st, 2014
My New Year's Day op-ed in the New York Times seems to have kickstarted a discussion about how to make Obamacare better. I hope you ...
December 18th, 2013
This morning it was announced by the Library of Congress and the National Film Preservation Board that my first film, 'Roger & Me', has been ...
December 14th, 2013
[View the story "Michael Moore Tweets on Eve of Newtown Anniversay" on Storify]
November 9th, 2013
Click here for this week's full schedule for the State Theatre and Bijou by the Bay in Traverse City, Michigan. The day has arrived. For ...
September 10th, 2013
[View the story "John Kerry's Accidental Diplomacy" on Storify]
September 11th, 2010
OpenMike 9/11/10 Michael Moore's daily blog I am opposed to the building of the "mosque" two blocks from Ground Zero. I want it built on ...
December 14th, 2010
Yesterday, in the Westminster Magistrates Court in London, the lawyers for WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange presented to the judge a document from me stating that ...
May 12th, 2011
"The Nazis killed tens of MILLIONS. They got a trial. Why? Because we're not like them. We're Americans. We roll different." – Michael Moore in ...
November 22nd, 2011
This past weekend I participated in a four-hour meeting of Occupy Wall Street activists whose job it is to come up with the vision and ...
September 22nd, 2011
I encourage everyone I know to never travel to Georgia, never buy anything made in Georgia, to never do business in Georgia. I will ask ...
December 16th, 2010
Dear Swedish Government: Hi there -- or as you all say, Hallå! You know, all of us here in the U.S. love your country. Your ...
November 2nd, 2010
This letter contains (almost) no criticisms of how the Democrats have brought this day of reckoning upon themselves. That -- and where to go from ...