A great deal has been written about the recent Norfolk Southern derailment and the release of toxic substances in eastern Ohio near its Pennsylvania border. It is very clear that Norfolk Southern is totally responsible for the spill and is entirely responsible for the clean-up and its cost. On these two points there is almost universal agreement.

Commentators have had their say. Some have commented on the hypocrisy demonstrated by former President Donald Trump and the fact that he went to East Palestine to score political points, but he was responsible for removing regulations that may have prevented this accident. Even if this was not directly related to this accident, his deregulation increased the probability of accidents occurring.

Some complained that Pete Buttigieg took too long to visit the scene of the accident, but Trump’s Secretary of Transportation never visited the scene of a single accident even when there was a fatality. Is it even possible for a president to visit every disaster that happens in our country?

A mantra of Republicans for decades has been the cry for deregulation. This appeal for less governmental regulation is centered on the idea that “government is best that governs least.” That government should do as little as possible. While I agree that government should not do more than needed, the question of what is needed is not always agreed upon. With one thousand rail accidents occurring every year in this country, it seems clear that more regulation of the rail system in this country is needed.

Let’s set aside the question of “big government” vs. “limited government” and consider the concept that government is best which does what is needed. The purpose and goals for the formation of our government were set forth in the preamble of the Constitution. Our government is to “insure domestic tranquility.” The people in the area of the train wreck certainly have lost their tranquility. While government can’t always succeed in its efforts, it certainly failed in its efforts to do all reasonably possible to prevent such a train wreck.

The government of the United States should “promote the general welfare,” but those on the political right have chosen first and foremost to promote the welfare (profits) of the corporations and the wealthy. The cry for deregulating the corporations to free them up to increase profits is what motivates the call of the deregulators. Untying the hands of the corporation means setting them free to externalize as many costs as possible. Externalities that will cause us to pay more with our wallets and our health. Dealing with more toxic substances is just one cost we must shoulder with deregulation.

Capitalism has many flaws but its most corrupting fault is it’s opening the doors to good old-fashioned greed. Norfolk Southern has chosen profit over protecting those who live along their rights-of-way. While the political right is busy attacking the president about inflation, they fail to note that corporations like the oil industry are raking in record profits.

Think the cost of goods is too high? Consider that the increased costs for food industry only increased a little over 50% of the increased costs for consumers. Nearly half the cost of the increase of our groceries is just price gouging. Corporations saw an opportunity to piggy back on the inflation caused by the pandemic and increase their profits.

Notice that Republicans have done a lot of finger pointing and complaining but seem rather short on policies and ideas. They would never think of pointing a finger at their corporate sponsors.

Capitalism is a very efficient economic system, but unless it is carefully restrained by well crafted regulations that are backed with sufficient penalties and enforcement, we will all pay the price and those at the top will reap the rewards.

This highlights that capitalism without counter balancing measures is an elevator that takes money from the bottom and middle of the economic ladder and takes is to the top.

Jack D. Miller lives in Lewisburg.

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