Hard as it to believe, it appears that the Trump administration on Monday will actually do something right by workers.
It’s doing so after trying to save $11 million per year in construction and maritime costs to help one corner of a polluting industry that Trump calls beautiful: coal.
The price for those savings: two dead Americans a week, all of them blue-collar construction and maritime workers.
It appears from a Labor Department notice issued last week that even the political termites who Team Trump set loose to eat away at the substance of our government found the butcher’s bill for helping the “beautiful” coal industry was more than they could stomach.
The issue involves industrial uses of beryllium, a strong and light metal used in everything from missiles to nuclear bomb casings.
In metallic form, there is no danger, but beryllium dust is deadly. Most beryllium dust comes from coal slag, which is used as an abrasive in air guns to blast paint and rust off ship hulls so they can be repainted.
A Deadly Disease
There is no cure for those who develop Chronic Beryllium Disease. The number of deaths among the 62,000 or so blue-collar workers exposed to beryllium dust has fallen sharply since the 1970s when better breathing masks and respirators were introduced.
The cost of the Obama safety rules, about $11 million, means that the Trump administration’s proposal, which appears to now be on its way to the dustbin of history, valued each blue-collar worker’s life lost at just $110,000.
The dangers of beryllium dust have long been known. Rules to protect workers had been pending since 1945. You read that right – 1945.
Inaction of 11 Presidents
That means 11 American presidents, from Harry Truman to George W. Bush, allowed this carnage. Only the Obama administration developed new rules and had them formally adopted just 11 days before his second term ended.
Soon after assuming office, Trump’s political termites at the Labor Department moved to undo the new safety rules.
Because we pay attention to how Trump is using our government to harm workers we covered the issue as a case study of how Team Trump policies kill workers and in stories by our Sarah Okeson here, here and here.
Today the Trump administration is putting forth a policy that it appears will retain the Obama era safeguards. And if that is indeed what happens it will mean that in the future more than 100 Americans a year will live because they did not succumb to beryllium dust illness.
We use the cautionary qualifier “it appears” because the official notices are far from complete. They also cover only construction, not maritime trades. However, it would be illogical to continue the Obama era rules for construction only.
We’ll keep you posted as the issue develops.
All I want for Christmas is Democracy
As the House of Representatives prepares to vote on articles of impeachment, and as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell openly colludes with Trump’s lawyers to fix the upcoming Senate trial, it’s more obvious than ever that Donald Trump is just a symptom of much more profound disease that has rendered our democracy dysfunctional. America is hardly alone in this regard.
This article first appeared in Salon.
Contrast McConnell with Paula Duncan, the Trump-supporting juror in Paul Manafort's criminal trial, who told NBC News, "I wanted Paul Manafort to be innocent, but he wasn't," and voted to convict him on all charges. She followed the evidence, just as jurors are supposed to. “I didn't believe politics had any place in that courtroom,” she said. “I knew I could be fair and impartial," and she was right.
How the culture of football groomed us for President Trump
Because everything is so Trumpian these days, there’s less air or space for the only other mass entertainment that promotes tribalism and toxic masculinity while keeping violence in vogue: football.
In the age of The Donald, it’s hard to remember that football was once the nation’s greatest television reality show. Because real people actually got really hurt in real-time, you could be sure it wasn’t fake news. Now, football is just another runner-up to President Trump, whose policies actually get people killed.
And yet football is still here, in plain sight, waiting to resume its cultural dominance once Trump is gone.
Conservative evangelicals aren’t hypocrites — it’s worse than that
I understand why it’s hard for normal people to believe that white evangelical Christians are sadists. Normal people have never been, as I was a long time ago, on the inside of that shadowy religious world. But the sooner they understand this, the sooner normal people will see that white evangelical Christian support for Donald Trump isn’t rooted in hypocrisy, contradiction or merely straying from the straight and narrow. The reason they support a fascist president is simple: They’re sadists.