Nothing gets to the heart of the huge double standard in U.S. society between labor and business like the events of the past few weeks. First we had the Boston Marathon bombings where three people were killed and over one hundred were injured. This is obviously an act of terrorism. Then we had the West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion that killed at least 15 and also injured over one hundred and also leveled a town. Was this an act of terrorism? Turns out yes it was.
As Eric Loomis points out, anyone that is stockpiling more than 400 lbs of ammonium nitrate must report the stockpile to the federal government. To not do so violates federal anti-terrorism laws. How much was West Fertilizer stockpiling at their plant? 604,000 lbs! West Fertilizer either willfully or ignorantly violated anti-terrorism laws. Shouldn’t the owners of the company be charged with acts of terrorism? They willfully stockpiled an incredibly dangerous component often used in bomb making in the middle of a small town. They did so without notifying the federal government as required by law. The ammonium nitrate blew up. More people were killed and injured than the Boston Marathon bombing. And nothing.
I guarantee you that if a farmer had 401 lbs of ammonium nitrate stockpiled in a barn for fertilizer and it accidentally blew up causing his cows to be killed, the farmer would be treated like a terrorist. And if that farmer happened to look non-white, there would be calls by Republican lawmakers to ship him to Guantanamo. Our society allows businesses to commit grave harm to society and simply pay a fine for the harm caused. That fine is often less than the profits gained from causing said harm. This has to stop.
Another lesson we should learn from this disaster is that the federal regulatory process is in complete disarray and needs to be fixed. The West Fertilizer plant was last inspected in 1985. In that inspection, many serious violations were found at the plant. The fine for these violations? $30 and no followup inspections. Remember West, Texas the next time you complain about the federal government’s “strict” regulations against business. Yes, there are regulations that seem ridiculous, but most are there to protect the people of West, Texas from companies like the West Fertilizer Company.