As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to take lives, send tens of thousands to the hospital, and wreck the economy, the Trump administration has a word of reassurance for business owners: You don't need to protect your workers from the outbreak, just get back to work and hope for the best! The Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA) is doing little to protect workers outside the healthcare industry (and not a lot more within it), and Donald Trump's top economic adviser, former CNBC dipshit Larry Kudlow, took to his former network yesterday to explain that businesses shouldn't face lawsuits if they spread the disease to workers or customers, because it's impossible to insist anyone keep workers "safe" now that Neil Gorsuch is on the Supreme Court.
Thank goodness for capitalism, which will leave all the survivors happy, healthy, and prosperous!
As Trump rushes to get America back to work, Kudlow appeared on CNBC yesterday to explain that as the nation's governors allow businesses to reopen, there shouldn't be any consequences if those reopenings spread the coronavirus, because Jesus, you people want lawsuits on top of a recession? He said states will do a "very good job" of protecting everyone's safety, and what we need now is profits, not lawyers. Lawyers are ALWAYS bad!
"Businesses, particularly small businesses that don't have massive resources, should not be held liable — should not be held to trial lawyers putting on false lawsuits that will probably be thrown out of court," Kudlow told CNBC. "You have to give the businesses some confidence here that if something happens, and it may not be their fault — I mean, the disease is an infectious disease."
It's an infectious disease, after all, and as everyone knows, there is absolutely no way to hold anyone responsible for that. So if, say, a bar or restaurant reopens and doesn't make any particular effort to keep tables six feet apart or protect its employees, only a ridiculous liability lawyer would think that's a problem. It's an infectious disease, and no one can do anything to stop those! But even though Kudlow knows in advance that any such lawsuit would be thrown out of court, he also said such lawsuits should be made impossible anyway, just to be on the safe side, because man, those trial attorneys are such rapacious creeps!
If something happens, you can't take them out of business. You can't throw big lawsuits at them. And I think liability reforms and safeguards are going to be very important part of this. Some of this we can do probably on a regulatory basis. Part of it may require some additional legislation. But that's a very important point here. Someone has to defend the businesses.
How true this is. Businesses in America have never had any protection at all. It's a wonder anyone can still make money at all in this country.
But at least America's downtrodden and oppressed businesses haven't had to try to cope with both an economic crisis and the heavy hand of government regulation. As the New York Times reports, OSHA has largely been absent during the pandemic, because an outbreak of a deadly virus is simply not a time for the government to be imposing "safety" or "health" on our wealth creators and the brave heroes producing the food we rely on. Businesses know their own business the best, and don't need interference from government busybodies.
(In a fine bit of serendipity, OSHA is part of the Labor Department, which is helmed by Eugene Scalia, son of the late Supreme Court justice whose seat Neil Gorsuch now occupies. Don't we have fun!)
The agency, part of the Labor Department, announced last week that there would be few inspections of workplaces aside from those in high-risk activities like health care and emergency response. Instead, it called on employers to investigate coronavirus-related issues on their own, even in hot spots such as the food supply chain [...]
At the same time, OSHA has provided few of the incentives, like new workplace rules dealing specifically with infectious disease, that typically prompt employers to address hazards.
And why should OSHA worry about that, since the administration doesn't want anyone to face lawsuits? You can't be irresponsible if no one told you the responsible thing to do.
As yet another signal that we have no functioning federal government anymore — just as the Founders intended — the administration's guidelines for reopening businesses said the states would be entirely responsible to "Protect the health and safety of workers in critical industries," even though that's kind of OSHA's entire reason for being. Or was, at least, just not any more. Take that, administrative state!
Even the guidance that OSHA has issued to businesses has taken the form of "you might could do this, if you want" suggestions, like telling businesses they could "consider restricting the number of customers allowed inside the facility" and to "consider providing alcohol-based hand sanitizers." Or not. No big, it's not like anyone's watching.
Earlier this month OSHA also announced that employers outside the health care industry wouldn't even be required to keep records of employees who get COVID-19, much less report that information to OSHA. That's a huge departure from the norm, which requires employers to track major illnesses spread at work, so they can be contained, and prevented in the future. But for COVID-19, most employers won't even have to try to determine if employees were exposed at work.
Honestly, trying to figure out where people get sick is just too much work, not to mention bad for business and kind of a bummer.
"So all you infected bus drivers, grocery store clerks, poultry processors ― you didn't get it at work," tweeted Jordan Barab, a former OSHA official now with the House Committee on Education and Labor.
Why yes, the memo defining those new exemptions from enforcement was issued well before Smithfield Foods insisted dirty immigrants all caught the Rona at home, not at its at its pork processing plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. "Living circumstances in certain cultures are different than they are with your traditional American family," a company spokesperson said, and Gov. Kristi Noem agreed, saying all Those People must have done community transmission at home and then come to work. Thanks to OSHA's directive, it seems unlikely there'll be any records to suggest the massive COVID-19 outbreak happened where all those people worked. That's convenient!
Just to give workers one more swift kick in the lungs, let's also not forget that as businesses reopen, safely or not, their employees will almost certainly face the same choice as workers in Georgia: Either go back to a job where you might get infected, or lose your paycheck and your unemployment insurance. If companies decide to stay closed, then their workers will keep getting their unemployment checks. But if the employers reopen, the workers will be shitcanned if they don't go back and risk infection, and then since they "chose" not to work, they'll lose unemployment, too.
Those workers will have a tough choice, said Alex Camardelle, a senior policy analyst for the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute.
"No worker should be forced to choose between their health and their ability to put food on the table," he said.
But we can't see why anyone wouldn't decide to rush back to work. After all, employers might get in so much trouble if they opened too soon and made people sick. Sure, they won't be regulated or sued, but probably the unwashed invisible hand of the marketplace would eventually result in consumers going elsewhere. Maybe, if anyone kept any records, which they won't have to. This is the genius of our great free enterprise system.
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.