If anyone is responsible for the vast spread of multinational corporations through the past few decades, its Ronald Reagan. In 1978, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) tried to ban all television ads targeted at young children. The ban proposed had wide support amongst parents, broadcasters and even toy manufactures, but was opposed by industry groups, who tried to appeal to Congress to overturn the ban. In 1981, three months after Reagan gained office, FTC totally changed its policy on the issue, arguing it was impractical and dropping the case. In 1983, Reagan began to abolish the U.S. anti-trust laws. He first permitted joint research between competitors, then removed the laws prohibiting giant mergers. He crippled the FTC, limiting its ability to impose fines, cutting the staff by nearly two thirds, and appointing a capitalist-sensitive chairman who wanted to reduce the agencies “excessively adversarial role”. In 1986 Reagan passed further legislation aimed at reducing anti-trust powers. Reagans office saw the ten biggest mergers yet in American history, none of which were bothered by the FTC. He even stepped in himself to protect the world’s ten largest airlines from anti-trust investigation by the government.
Reagan also worked to reduce the power of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Before Reagan, OSHA was already seriously under funded; a typical American employer could expect an OSHA inspection once every 80 years. Reagan cut the number of OSHA inspectors by 20%. In 1981, the agency was forced to adopt a policy of “voluntary compliance”. OSHA inspectors didn’t inspect a plant if the companies published injury rate was lower the national average for manufacturers. These injury rates were provided by company officials. This led to massive abuse of the system, leading firms “to understate injuries, to falsify records and to cover up accidents”, according to an investigation by congress. During 1985 in the meat-packing industry, the real injury logs and the logs given to OSHA showed more then 1,000% difference. Firms were fined a mere few hundred dollars for the death of a worker on the job. The OSHA has never really recovered and this can be seen in the 25% annual worker injury rate (of injuries requiring more then first aid) that makes working in the meat-packing industry Americas most dangerous job.
- Naomi Klein
Fast Food Nation
- Eric Schlosser