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Corporations Running Our Government, Hurting the Environment and Hiring Our Health

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Responding to environmental problems has always been a no-win proposition for managers. Help the environment and hurt your business, or irreparably harm your business while protecting the earth. Recently, however, a new common wisdom has emerged that promises the ultimate reconciliation of environmental and economic concerns. In this new world, both business and the environment can win. Being green is no longer a cost of doing business; it is a catalyst for innovation, new market opportunity, and wealth creation.

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Although there may be debates over the constitutional roles of the federal and state governments, a more fundamental concern is that each level of government operates effectively in assuring the conditions for the public's health. First, strong public health leadership is essential. This means that where the various levels of government are operating at the same time, clear understanding of who is in charge and who has responsibility for which tasks must exist. During the anthrax outbreak, for example, it was often unclear which level of authority was in charge: the Secretary of DHHS, the local public health commissioners in Florida, New York, and Washington, D.C., or the Department of Justice (FBI)

Second, no significant gaps in public health protection should exist. This means that at least one level of government should be actively involved in dealing with important health problems. Because the major interactions of the federal and state governments in recent years have related to issues of health care financing through the Medicaid program (or through welfare programs), they have tended to focus on arguments over money and degrees of freedom to spend it. States have often been reduced to being just another interest group. If a mechanism could be developed to engage the states as potential partners in a larger national strategy such as the health agenda that clearly depends on collaborative action for success, it could change these relationships. Direct relationships between the federal government and local governments constitute a complicated issue. In the American system, local governments are the creatures of state governments, from which they get their authority and resources (or the authority to raise revenues). There are more than 90,000 units of local government in the United States; 90 percent have populations of less than 10,000 and 80 percent have populations of less than 5,000.

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But does environmental regulation actually hurt the economy? There are compliance costs that businesses have to bear that can lead to higher prices, as well as job loss costs. In the first fifteen years after the implementation of the Clean Air Act in, about half a million jobs moved from counties with plants that were out of compliance to neighboring counties where the plants met the standards [N. Swan, “How Do Environmental Regulations Affect the Economy?]. These job losses, however, have been insignificant on a macroeconomic level compared to the overall number of jobs lost, suggesting that environmental regulation encourages job mobility within countries. In fact, environmental regulation actually creates jobs by requiring prevention efforts and pollution clean up

An EPA-mandated clean up of the Chesapeake Bay is “anticipated to create 35 times as many jobs as the proposed construction of the Keystone XL pipeline”, and “jobs in the coal industry actually increased by 10 percent after the EPA cracked down on mountaintop-removal mining in 2009”. An independent, nonpartisan analysis by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) found that net job gains from the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), which was proposed by the EPA, would reach 117,000 to 135,000 in 2015. The economic, technological, and health benefits of environmental regulation greatly outweigh the costs. The costs of environmental regulation do not significantly change overall productivity, or GDP. A rule of thumb for comparing the two says “a 10% change in the oil price is associated with a 0.2% change in GDP”. If green taxes, which are taxes on services or products that are not environmentally friendly, increase oil prices by only a few cents, then the impact on GDP would be minimal.

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Definitely, human rights issues also come up in research on environmental health that involves human subjects. For such research to be ethical, human subjects must give consent, and great care must be taken to ensure that they understand that they can opt out of the research project. Since the late 1990s, some pesticide companies have tested pesticides on human subjects to gather data to submit to the government for regulatory purposes

Some commentators charge that these experiments are unethical because they place people at unacceptably high risk without a clear benefit to society.

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B. Dennis, “Trump: ‘I’m not a big believer in man-made climate change.’”, Washington Post, 2016. [Online].

O. Milman, “Republican candidates’ calls to scrap EPA met with skepticism by experts”, the Guardian, 2016.

N. Swan, “How Do Environmental Regulations Affect the Economy? Experts Describe a Nuanced Picture”, AAAS - The World’s Largest General Scientific Society, 2013. [Online].

J. Spross, “New Study: The Economic Benefits of EPA Regulations Massively Outweigh The Costs”, ThinkProgress, 2013. [Online].

“Green tape”, The Economist, 2015. [Online].

A. Dechezleprêtre and M. Sato, “The impacts of environmental regulations on competitiveness”, London School Of Economics, 2014. [Online].

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