Manufacturing Uncertainty

MANUFACTURING UNCERTAINTY….David Michaels writes today in the LA Times about “manufacturing uncertainty.” As he says, the Bush administration’s war against science isn’t so much an effort to argue that scientific research is wrong, so much as it’s an effort to toss up enough mud that no one is sure what’s really going on:

Manufacturing uncertainty is a business in itself. You too can launch a pretty good campaign. All you need is the money with which to hire one of the main players in the “product-defense industry,” many of whose stalwarts first honed their craft defending cigarette smoke. These firms will hire the scientists, throw the mud, crank up the fog machine.

A classic case is beryllium, a lightweight metal useful in nuclear weapons. For many years it has been clear that workers exposed to beryllium levels below the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration standard can develop chronic beryllium disease.

When OSHA tried to lower the standard, the industry hired Exponent, a leading product-defense firm to focus on all the things we don’t understand, calling for more research before OSHA could act. Meanwhile, workers are still exposed at the old, unsafe level, and are still getting sick.

Of course, as Jon Chait points out, this is part and parcel of the overall Republican agenda:

Business is booming because there seemingly are no limits to what Republicans are willing to do on behalf of their constituents….Virtually every element of the Republican agenda has the effect ? I suspect the intent, but I can’t prove that ? of enriching special interests. Bush has enacted five tax cuts, a Medicare prescription drug bill stuffed with billions in corporate subsidies, tort reform, bankruptcy restrictions, various tariffs and regulatory rollbacks enacted by administration appointees who frequently oversee the industries they once represented.

For more on this, pre-order a copy of Chris Mooney’s upcoming The Republican War on Science. It’s likely to be a must read.

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