Thursday, January 20, 2005

Molly Ivins on Jonathan Snare's OSHA

In an article entitled Henhouses Overstaffed with Foxes Molly Ivins takes on acting OSHA assistant secretary Jonathan Snare who I wrote about when he was appointed last month. (I sent her a copy of my post. I don't know if that's where she discovered him, but I'll be happy to take credit. It's tough being an unsung hero.)
Oh, goody, another Texan with a big job in Washington. We're so proud. Jonathan L. Snare has been named to head the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Just the guy we would have chosen ourselves, because his background is so relevant. No, he's not an expert in health or safety, but he used to be the lobbyist for Metabolife, the ephedra diet pill that attracted so much unpleasant attention. Ephedrine was finally barred in 2003 after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decided it had caused 155 deaths. I guess we're lucky Bush didn't put Snare at the FDA. According to the Washington Post, Metabolife spent more than $4 million lobbying the Texas Legislature between 1998 and 2000. Snare was also general counsel to the Republican Party of Texas from 1999 to '01 and has extensive experience in election law.

Exactly how this qualifies him to head OSHA is unclear -- maybe he's a quick learner. He did join the solicitor's office of the Department of Labor in June 2003, where the Labor Department's announcement says, "Snare focused on issues at OSHA, as well as the Wage and Hour Division and the Mine Safety and Health Administration." Wage and Hour, you may recall, has made what business considers a great leap forward by making overtime pay optional, whereas the Mine Safety people have just had their budget cut.

Snare was formerly with the Texas law firm Loeffler, Jonas & Tuggey. That would be W's close friend and big-time money-raiser Tom Loeffler, who ran for governor of Texas on the grounds that he was "tough as 'bob war.'" To prove it, he proudly claimed to have played football with two broken wrists. (Loeffler also wore shower caps on his feet while showering during a visit to San Francisco back in the '80s lest he get AIDS through his feet. (I tell this story not to make Snare ridiculous by association but just because it's a good story.)
Ivins also goes after recently resigned OSHA director (and former chemical industry executive) John Henshaw, as well as OSHA's ergonomics non-program and recordkeeping "accuracy."
This administration disdains the whole idea of ergonomic injuries, also called repetitive stress syndrome, despite the fact that millions of people have them. It's one thing to ignore ergonomic injuries since people seldom die of them, but chemical exposure and many other problems are life-threatening. Workplace deaths were up last year, but the agency claims illness and injuries were down. I hate to sound like a cynic, but I'd like to know how they changed the reporting requirements on the last two.