Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Indecent Fines? It's All Relative

The North Jersey Record is justifiably outraged at the injustice -- or indecency -- of the new $500,000 fines for radio and TV stations and individual entertainers if an uncovered breast is shown or a discouraging word heard.

Those penalties are way out of proportion to the "crimes" - uttering foul language or airing sexual content - especially in light of federal penalties that have been levied in other arenas.

Consider this.

Less than two weeks ago, a former Enron chief financial officer agreed to pay a $500,000 federal penalty after the SEC charged him with fraud for his role in Enron's bogus earnings reports - part of the largest corporate bankruptcy in U.S. history.

Last week, OSHA proposed that a Louisiana construction company be fined $65,000 for willful and serious safety violations, including "failing to protect employees from the hazards of a cave-in" following a trench collapse that killed one worker last year.

That's right. Serious safety violations in a deadly accident bring a $65,000 federal fine. But if Congress has its way, cursing on the air could cost $500,000.

Now that would be really offensive.

The editors clearly haven't been checking out OSHA's website (or Confined Space) or they would have seen even a worse atrocity: OSHA's recent $5,800 penalty handed down to K&M Construction not just for "failing to protect" workers, but for actually killing a worker.

So glad our Republican-controlled Congress is keeping its eyes on the prize.