(In his previous My View, Noah Kaminsky described some of the limitations of the Affordable Care Act—most of which were in place because they were ahead of their time. One problem, surprise …
(In his previous My View, Noah Kaminsky described some of the limitations of the Affordable Care Act—most of which were in place because they were ahead of their time. One problem, surprise billing from out-of-network providers, has been addressed by new legislation. But the fundamental issue, Kaminsky says, is that competition is allowed to manage the healthcare marketplace, with little regulation to check it.)
In the 2019 film “Dark Waters,” Mark Ruffalo plays the downtrodden lawyer Rob Bilott, who stands up to the Dupont Chemicals Company in Parkersburg, WV. Dupont polluted local groundwater and knowingly exposed its workers to cancer-causing chemicals. Dupont paid $671 million in more than 3,500 personal injury settlements, but that money will never bring back the lives lost due to harmful exposure to perfluorooctanoic acid.
Regulatory oversight could have prevented illness and death for hundreds of West Virginians. Instead, profit drove Dupont’s manufacturing process and wastewater management more than safe practice for their employees.
It’s no coincidence the Labor Movement followed the Industrial Revolution. In the United States, we often ignore history and repeat it with the same industries—or new ones.
In July 2019, the Federal Trade Commission fined Facebook $5 billion for sharing user data with British consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, but $5 billion is just a drop in the bucket for an $85 billion company with an average quarterly revenue of over $25 billion in the last year. Following this scandal, Facebook set up the Oversight Board, a review committee, to monitor and remove hate speech, harassment, bullying or any post that incites violence.
This seems like a step in the right direction, but its arrival offers too little, too late. Where was the Oversight Board on the 2016 presidential campaign trail when we needed it most, as hate speech and white nationalism began its creeping return into American politics? Or, in the last year, as misinformation spread rampantly about vaccines or the 2020 presidential election result? Facebook may not be the only social media platform with a complex relationship with free speech, but with the most users worldwide and nationwide, it sets the tone for others. In this case, the argument that laws and ethics cannot keep up with technology is a cowardly pitch at low-hanging fruit.
Self-regulation is one of many myths on which corporate greed can build its pyramids. We cannot let any more monarchs, oligarchs or companies build any more pyramids. Today, our civic duty begins with holding corporations accountable to their employees’ well-being, to the environment and to fair taxation. Your well-being includes your salary or hourly wage.
We cannot let runaway capitalism seep ever deeper into our lives. I cannot overlook that we live in an era and in a country in which the government already regulates employers significantly, but of course, there’s always more work to do for your benefit. The U.S. can and should set the tone for other countries.
Countless examples exist in which corporations claim they can moderate their own profit-driven behavior and then fail to do so. I believe greed has been written into our manifest since Americans began westward expansion. We just never expected to hit an ocean. Don’t say we didn’t start the fire. It’s the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis, it’s the Sackler family’s negligence to the opioid epidemic, it’s General Motors and General Electric on the Hudson River, it’s the National Rifle Association bankrolling and bankrupting, it’s the 737 Max crashing out of Boeing’s fleet, it’s the Nike Oregon Project tolerating abusive coaches. It’s those annoying ticket fees for concerts and sports events. It’s your insurance provider billing what it wants for any medical procedure. We did start the fire. Now we have to put it out.
Noah Kaminsky is a middle school science teacher and a youth sports coach. He believes a party of peeps is more powerful than one of inactive sheeps.