Congress Rejects Aid For Sick 9/11 Responders: Puts Financial Safety Over Human Safety

Yesterday, Republican Senators blocked Senator Clinton's proposal to fund almost 2 billion for medical treatment for sick 9/11 responders. As reported in NYC's Daily News:

Senate leaders invoked parliamentary rules, saying Sen. Hillary Clinton's (D-N.Y.) amendment to a measure funding port security was not "germane." - NY Daily News

As I have repeatedly explained this past week (1,2,3), the federal government's response to the environmental effect of the WTC Ground Zero site almost precisely follow the profits over safety business model sometimes adopted by corporations.

This recent denial of comprehensive funding by the Senate further supports this characterization of the governmental response. In the wake of 9/11, federal officials downplayed and affirmatively misrepresented the danger of exposure to the WTC Ground Zero site.

I have previously gone into detail about just how reckless federal officials' conduct appears to have been. Others have also provided additional details. Congressmembers are urging criminal that charges be brought against Christine Todd Whitman, the Bush appointed former EPA chief who made the most forceful public misrepresentations that the site was safe. Indeed, A NY federal court recently found that her conduct "shocked the contemporary conscience" and waived the usually granted governmental immunity.

In short, it is clear that federal officials misrepresented the danger at ground zero, and I and others have argued that they did so, at least in large part, to save money.

So, after it is clear beyond a doubt that government officials are responsible for knowingly endangering the public health, this same federal government refuses to pay for the effects of its error.

Why?

How can you not pay to undue a wrong that you committed? Clearly, the EPA can't blame anybody else. Christine Todd Whitman said, and I quote:

"As we continue to monitor air and drinking water in and around New York City, and as EPA gets more comprehensive analysis of this monitoring data, I am relieved to be able to reassure New York and New Jersey residents that a host of potential contaminants are either not detectable or are below the Agency's concern levels....Results we have just received on drinking water quality show that not only is asbestos not detectable, but also we cannot detect any bacterial contamination, PCBs or pesticides."Christine Todd Whitman Sept. 21, 2001.

Even while her agency's own testing directly contradicted that statement.

In her more than 80 page decision, Federal Judge Deborah Batts denied Whitman immunity against the class action lawsuit and said:

"No reasonable person would have thought that telling thousands of people that it was safe to return to lower Manhattan, while knowing that such return could pose long-term health risks and other dire consequences, was conduct sanctioned by our laws....The allegations in this case of Whitman's reassuring and misleading statements of safety after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks are without question conscience-shocking."

What about the usual conservative mantra of personal responsibility?

What about governmental responsibility?

No, it's too expensive.

As I have said before, this approach to governance follows the profits over safety business model currently being advanced by the tort "reform" movement. An alternative description of this model can be "the political economy of the tort 'reform' movement."

This model is described in detail here, but a summarized version is below.

In short, an entity which makes a decision on account of profits or savings which it knows will likely endanger human life.

However, when human health and well being is negatively affected as the entity knew was likely to occur, this entity cries foul and says that righting this wrong (even if a worthy cause) would be "too expensive."

In denying this 1.9 billion in federal funding for treatment of 9/11 responders, the Republican controlled Congress did exactly that.

I'm tired of hearing about personal responsibility.

Let's talk about collective responsibility.

Let's talk about a responsibility to some of our nation's greatest heroes, as well as to all Americans who are put in harm's way by the reckless choices of government officials.

Let's talk about putting human safety..... over financial safety.

If you or your organization is interested in learning more about or working on these types of civil justice issues, please feel free to contact me at cdugger@drummajorinstitute.org.

Cyrus Dugger
Senior Fellow in Civil Justice
Drum Major Institute for Public Policy

Tags: 9/11, civil justice, civil justice system, first responders, Ground Zero, tort deform, tort reform (all tags)

Comments

2 Comments

Re: Congress Rejects Aid For Sick 9/11 Responders:

$1.9 billion over 5 years sure is a lot of money.

I'm just wondering - how does this cost compare to 5 years of reconstructing Iraq?

While we surely have a moral obligation to the people of Iraq, our obligation to our own heroic Ground Zero rescue workers is surely far greater.

How Sen. Clinton's proposal doesn't pass 100-0, I have no idea.

by Steve M 2006-09-15 12:32PM | 0 recs
Re: Congress Rejects Aid For Sick 9/11 Responders:

Congressman Nadler also sponsored a bill in the House that I do not believe has been voted on yet.

It accomplishes the same goal.

http://www.house.gov/apps/list/press/ny0 8_nadler/911CompHealthBeneAct090706.html

The 9/11 Comprehensive Health Benefits Act would provide medical treatment and health care for those who need it and channel much needed federal resources and coordination to the institutions and programs that have been on the frontlines in this crisis. The bill has two major components:

It would extend Medicare benefits to individuals with adverse health or mental health conditions associated with exposure to the terrorist attacks - including first responders, rescue and recovery personnel, those accidentally caught in the cloud, as well as those who have resided, gone to school, or have been employed in a building that was exposed to hazardous substances, pollutants, or contaminants from the collapse of the World Trade Center - and cover their 9/11 health-related illnesses. All costs for such illnesses, including premiums, deductibles, and co-pays would be covered. For those with private insurance, Medicare would provide supplemental coverage for these 9/11-related conditions to ensure complete care.

2. It would establish a consortium of institutions, practitioners, and community-based organizations that would comprise the Federal government's primary mechanism for screening, monitoring, testing and research for 9/11 health conditions. As part of establishing the consortium, the federal government would also be responsible for setting up a state-of-the-art clinical facility in Lower Manhattan focused on 9/11 health.

by Cyrus Dugger 2006-09-15 12:54PM | 0 recs

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