The Reagan Speech Preservation Society

Government Gets You Either Way

Modified: Tuesday, 20 July 2021 21:58 by admin - Categorized as: Podcasts
The following is a collection of the materials used in creating the sixteenth episode of the Citizen Reagan podcast (pending permission from the Reagan Foundation) about the Reagan's Radio Commentaries.





Welcome to the Citizen Reagan podcast. As you may know, what I do with this podcast is discuss the contents of the Ronald Reagan Radio Commentaries produced between 1975 and 1979. Sometimes, I may decide to talk about some other topic, but with over 1000 of these Commentaries to cover, the bulk of my work will be on them.

Today I've got a few transcripts, but only clips of audio. I'm going to try to discuss regulatory contradiction, meaning, those ways in which a government agency tells us we must do things one way but another agency, or sometimes the same agency, tells us we must do it another way. I say try to discuss because it remains to be seen how much luck I am going to have tracking down information. Reagan didn't always annotate his scripts (that's part of what I'm trying to do), since the 1970s the web of regulations has only become more difficult to navigate.

For our first contradiction, we have audio, coming from a 1975 broadcast in which Reagan shares information from a speech by Dr. Murray Weidenbaum regarding a new wave of regulations coming our way:

For example, Dr Wiedenbaum tells us the occupational safety and health administration, OSHA, requires backup alarms on vehicles at construction sites. Nothing wrong with that. But then OSHA says the workers on those sites have to wear earplugs for protection against noise pollution, which means they can't hear those required alarms if they ring. Here's a single agency pursuing two worthy but contradictory goals. Which one does the small businessman choose to follow?

Before I get to the regulations, I should share I found a very important document for this discussion. It may be the basis for the speech Dr. Weidenbaum was giving. It is dated June 1975 and appears to be a separate printing of an article from the Journal of Economic Studies entitled, "The Case for Economizing on Governmental Controls." That article, it appears, is a condensing of a 1975 book, "Government Mandated Price Increases" which was put out by the American Enterprise Institute. Links to the article and the book will be available on my wiki, with a transcript of this and all my podcasts.

I was able to track down specific information about these regulations.

OSHA regulation section 1910.95 covers Occupational Noise Exposure and states that "Employers shall make hearing protectors available to all employees exposed to an 8-hour time-weighted average of 85 decibels or greater at no cost to the employees."

OSHA regulation section 1926.601 covers Motor Vehicles and includes provisions that:
"No employer shall use any motor vehicle equipment having an obstructed view to the rear unless: The vehicle has a reverse signal alarm audible above the surrounding noise level or: The vehicle is backed up only when an observer signals that it is safe to do so."

So, are these contradictory? In reading the actual text, I'd have to say almost, but not really. It's because the Vehicle regulation includes the phrase, "above the surrounding noise level". If someone works at a location that is loud enough to require the ear protection, the vehicle back-up alarm would have to be louder than the 85 decibels to comply with the regulation.

Did Reagan know that? I lean towards not. I'm sure he took Weidenbaum at his word about the contradiction. Back then, he didn't have a massive research tool like the Internet to look up regulations. Maybe he or an employee could have gone to a library to look up the regulations? I don’t know. It’s also possible the regulation was modified at some point to clarify the language.

A second regulation Reagan talked about is a little more interesting because it pits a federal level regulation against a state.
Then there's the case of a woman who wants to legally wash her children's pajamas in New York state. Now that sounds like a pretty fundamental freedom, but the Consumer Product Safety Commission says, the only way you can legally wash pajamas without washing out fireproof materials, which are required by that same commission, is to do so with phosphate detergents. But in 1973, in a move against water pollution, New York said it was illegal to use phosphate detergents. So mama has to choose between fire hazard to a child or committing an act of illegal laundry.

I found a few interesting pieces of information about this snippet. First, I found a couple articles indicating that it's not that the fireproofing would be washed out, rather, non-phosphate detergents lead to a build-up of soap residue and residual dirt that is redeposited. Doing laundry in hard water has a similar effect. This is what reduces the effectiveness of the flame retardants. The standards put down by the CPSC are found in Part 1615 of the Federal register.

Next, in 1974, according to a New York Times article, only a handful of locations had bans on phosphate detergents. New York state, Indiana and Dade county in Florida are mentioned by name. Reagan or Weidenbaum must have read the article, because the "act of illegal laundry" line is there. The article also goes on to talk about citrate-based detergents.

In 1977, the EPA published a position paper against phosphate detergents. As of 1994, there was a voluntary nationwide ban. Also worth mentioning is that phosphate detergents actually aren't a pollution concern in the way the average person might think. What it can cause, though, is algae blooms, which cause major problems for other parts of the aquatic ecosystem.

Reagan's story seems to be right on the money.

In a third example, coming from a 1979 broadcast of which I do not currently have audio, Reagan brings up some conflict between OSHA and the EPA.

For example the Environmental Protection Agency wants hoods over coke ovens in the steel plants to reduce air pollution. The Occupational Safety & Health Admin, wants them removed because they increase the noxious gases breathed by coke oven workers. The steel industry is blanketed by 5600 regulations enforced by 26 separate agencies.

What did I find here? According to an EPA factsheet, the EPA was investigating possible regulations beginning in the late 1970s, but didn't propose any until 1987. The EPA documents I reviewed mentioned a "removable hood" in use on a quench car used to transport hot coke, but I do not believe this is the same thing Reagan is speaking about. As for OSHA, I found that section 1910.1029 covers coke oven emissions, but I found no mention of any hoods. Unless both groups used some other term for these hoods, I'm a little stuck.

There are a couple other stories in this 1979 broadcast, one about a laser light show being put on by MIT and a dispute between OSHA and the Health, Education and Wealth Department over trash can bags in a federally-funded hospital, but I have had no luck tracking down the specifics of either story.

Not to be outdone, I was able to track down a couple regulatory contradictions myself. It was not as easy as I initially thought it might be.
  • An obvious mention doesn't quite fit, because its laws against laws rather than conflicting regulations, but the number of states legalizing marijuana for both medicinal and recreational use are at odds with federal law.
  • I found a 2016 article about California school grading standards which would conflict with the federal Department of Education. It seems that California wanted to assess schools on a number of different factors, while the DOE wanted a single measure. On the Federal side, it was to implement changes made through the Every Child Succeeds Act, though the article states that the law makes no mention of such a standard.
  • During an OSHA inspection at a commercial smokehouse, the agency rep found that, due to the height of the loading dock, it needed a guard rail to prevent falls. During a later USDA inspection, after installing the guard rail, that inspector stated that the rail could come in contact with raw meat and contaminate it, thus the guard rail needed to be removed.

Reagan ends this later broadcast with the following statement:

A study published in the Vale Law Journal describes this bureaucratic chaos as, "a patchwork of specialized and fiercely independent agencies with different perspectives whose concerns necessarily overlap and whose actions may contradict one another." The report might have added they create problems instead of solving them because the problems are their only reason for existing. We are up to our necks in alligators and it's time to drain the swamp.

ScrewTurn Wiki version 2.0.15. Some of the icons created by FamFamFam.