Here's a fellow who might already have touched you
personally, though he wouldn't have
left any fingerprints. John heads a nerdy operation called the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs of the White House Office of Management and Budget. Let's see, the acronym of that'd
be OIRAWHOMB, which can be rearranged as an anagram to spell BIG KIBOSH. That's
what Graham is—the guy in charge of putting the kibosh on regulations
designed to protect our health from things like asbestos poisoning, toxic emissions,
Gosh, why would he do that? Because he wakes up every morning
and takes a couple of lids of LSD, which has turned him into a dangerous, hallucinogenic freak. (Just kidding! Call off the lawyers! I was only seeing if you were paying attention!) Actually, the LSD explanation is not
one dot weirder than the reality, which is that Graham is besotted with an antigovernment,
antipublic ideology and has found a way to convert his political extremism into
a profitable career fronting for corporations that sicken and kill us with their
products and carefree sloppiness.
What hole did Graham crawl out of? A place called
the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis,
which he directed, doing reports on the health risk of everything from secondhand smoke to the dioxins that spew from chemical plants. Well, that sounds pretty academicky, like he's a legitimate independent research scientist. He's not a scientist at all, just another doctrinaire policy geek. As for his independence, Graham's center is
funded by more than one hundred corporations, including these specimens: Aetna,
Alcoa, Amoco, ARCO, Bethlehem Steel, Boise Cascade, BP, Chevron, Ciba-Geigy, CITGO, Coca-Cola, Dow, DuPont, Eastman
Kodak, Exxon, Ford, GE, GM, Georgia-Pacific, Goodyear, International Paper, Johnson &
Johnson, Kraft, Merck, Mobil, Monsanto, Nippon, Novartis, PepsiCo, Pfizer,
Pharmacia Upjohn, Procter & Gamble, Schering-Plough, Shell, Texaco, 3M, Union
Carbide, and Westinghouse.
The companies contribute generously because Graham delivers reports that almost always support them, usually without bothering to mention that they funded his "research." For example, when the EPA finally
reported that dioxin is an extraordinarily potent chemical that can cause everything from cancer to birth defects, Graham
rushed out as an "expert" to criticize the EPA and pooh-pooh the risk, declaring
to the media: "It's a shame when a mother worries about toxic chemicals, and
yet her kids are running around unvaccinated and without bicycle helmets."
No mention to the media that his center
is funded by forty-eight different
corporations that pollute our environment with dioxin.
This is Bush's choice to be the czar who oversees
the entire regulatory process of the
government's executive departments. No important health, safety,
environmental, or other rule to protect you and me from corporate excess can be issued by the EPA or other executive agency
without getting stamped by John's signet ring. Yet, his appointment to head OIRA caused little media stir, and you probably know nothing about it. But the corporate executives and
lobbyists knew about it, and their beaming smiles would have lit up the sky on the darkest
night of an Arctic winter.
Among those beaming the brightest would have been
the honchos of W.R. Grace & Co.,
the chemical and asbestos giant. They had a problem. Millions of American homes, schools, and businesses—perhaps yours— are insulated with a product named Zonolite, made from a substance containing an extremely
lethal asbestos fiber that came from W.R. Grace's mine in Libby, Montana. Hundreds of the Libby miners and their families have died from asbestosis, hundreds more are diagnosed with it, and thousands
are sickened by it.
This is nasty stuff—breathing even a little can cause
major health problems. The Zonolite insulation poses no problem if it's not disturbed. That's the good news. Bad news is that it takes very little to disturb it. Bumping the walls as you sweep your floor or doing work in the attic can shake loose a mess of fibers. It's such a problem that Bush's EPA administrator,
Christine Todd Whitman, who's not exactly a tiger on corporate wrongdoing, was
so alarmed that she was prepared in April of '02 to issue a national health warning
Do you recall getting any warning? You didn't, because just days before Whitman was to go to the media, John Graham and his OIRAWHOMB put the kibosh on her warning. It seems
that Graham's obligation is not to us pollutees, who might want to know about Zono-lite's
danger to our families, but to the bottom line of the polluter, W.R. Grace.
Under what authority had Graham single-handedly
quashed such an important effort by a cabinet officer to protect the public health? No response from OIRAWHOMB. Had he been contacted by Grace officials? Silence. An agency spokeswoman told an inquiring
reporter: "We don't discuss predecisional deliberations."
There you have it—your tax dollars at work,
THREE MORE EXAMPLES
chosen to head the SEC, which is supposed to be our watchdog against fraud by Wall Street firms. He was CEO of one of the biggest of the Wall Street firms,
Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette—which presently happens to be under SEC
investigation for fraud.
to be Bush's top economic advisor. He was cochairman of the huge investment house of Goldman Sachs,
where he was a leader in the merge-and-purge boom of the '80s and '90s, which cost hundreds
of thousands of workers their jobs, lessened competition, raised prices for consumers,
and hurt shareholders.
Snow, chosen to be our
country's top economic official as treasury secretary. He was CEO of the nation's largest railroad company, CSX
Corporation, where he presided over a 53 percent dive in the company's stock price while
raising his own pay by 69 percent, at the same time he was slashing the health
care and life insurance benefits for CSX retirees.
Hightower, pgs 15-16.