I posted this cartoon on my Facebook page – twice – last week:
I also posted the accompanying article from the San Francisco Chronicle detailing how Governor Perry is demanding an apology from the cartoonist, Jack Ohman, and the Sacramento Bee, the paper that ran the original cartoon, because he is “disgusted and disappointed” on behalf of the 15 people (mostly first responders and firefighters) who died in the explosion of the ammonium nitrate fertilizer factory in West, Texas. (The article linked here has an excellent run-down on the events at the West Chemical and Fertilizer Company – definitely worth a read.)
Now, I have someone on my Facebook page wagging her finger at me for posting the cartoon that’s upsetting Governor Goodhair. She’s a friend, but she’s lecturing me about how the cartoon is “in bad taste” and blah-blah-blah. I hate being lectured, and wagging your finger in my face is like that cliche about the red flag and the bull. Thus, this post. Perhaps, instead of being annoyed, I should thank my friend for her inspiration.
Is this cartoon in bad taste?
Sure. Of course it is. But, as far as I’m concerned, it’s in much worse taste to allow the owners of that factory to do whatever-the-hell they wanted and violate all kinds of safety regulations – which are in place – DUH – to keep people safe from rapacious and unscrupulous business owners who are willing to cut every corner and take every shortcut (even if it kills people – they can be replaced easily and cheaply, right?) to maximize their profits.
Political cartoons, satires, op-eds – anything that calls out hypocrisy, stupidity, dangerous behavior and/or a complete disregard for the safety of your fellow human beings is very often in bad taste. Those things, by their very nature, are in bad taste – and they need to be, in order to hammer home the point.
Governor Perry has repeatedly bragged about how great a place Texas is to do business; he’s even called it the “Texas Miracle.” “C’mon over to Texas, boys! We’ll keep the gubmint’s nose outcher bidness – you do whatever you want and make BIG profits! And – you can even squirrel your money away in your offshore accounts – we got low taxes here – if you’re rich, o’course!” Texas is one of only seven states in the US that does not have a state income tax on personal income – and don’t those big corporate guys love their accountants – who can magically make millions of dollars in profit vanish into thin air, courtesy of our federal tax code (which overwhelmingly favors the rich).
Yeah, it’s a miracle, all right. What Rick Perry’s “Texas Miracle” basically means is, that if you want to make bombs or ammunition or refine gasoline or make ammonium nitrate fertilizer, you don’t have to provide a safe workplace, follow safety procedures to handle dangerous materials, and you can zone a factory handling dangerous materials right smack in the middle of a residential neighborhood (keeps your workers conveniently close by, you know?). You can flip OSHA the bird – just like the owners of the West Chemical and Fertilizer Company did: the last full safety inspection of that plant was conducted in 1985. Do the math. You can simply ignore the Department of Homeland Security’s rule that they must be notified if your business stores or uses more than a certain quantity of dangerous materials – the folks at West Chemical and Fertilizer Company did just that. And a $6000 fine? Eh. Just another cost of doing business – which can most likely be written off as some sort of business expense when April 15th rolls around.
In my opinion (which is what this blog is all about, right?) if Governor Rick Perry wants to brag about how Texas is the place with low taxes and few regulations, he needs to be called out.
Why? Because when you go up the chain of responsibility, ultimately, it’s his fault those people died.
And if now’s not the time to call him out on it…when IS the time?
Don’t think I’m not sorry for those poor people in West, TX. They have suffered and are suffering terribly, and my heart goes out to them.
…But how much do you want to bet that the vast majority of them voted for Rick Perry and Mitt Romney? It may sound heartless, but the people of West, Texas have learned, in the hardest way possible, that elections DO have consequences. “Small government” and “lower taxes” sounds really good on paper – but when you live next door to a fertilizer factory which is essentially a giant bomb?
Not so much.