Five federal health and safety regulatory agencies will provide $80.6 billion in benefits to the American public in 1985, and have the potential to increase that number to $206.5 billion, according to a study released yesterday by a Ralph Nader group.
The Corporate Accountability Research Group report, released in response to several recent industry-funded studies documenting the cost of federal regulation, was presented as testimony to a joint hearing of the House oversight and investigations and consumer protection and finance subcommittees.
"It's time that those concerned with consumer values and corporate crime rebut all the buisness studies that flagrantly exaggerate the costs and ignore the benefits of health and safety law enforcement," said Ralph Nader in releasing the report. "This study should begin to push back the business war on regulatory law -- just as Congress begins marking up various 'regulatory reform' bills."
The 160-page report sets the life-saying and economic benefits of health and safety regulation for 1978 at about $36 billion, compared to an estimated cost of such regulation of about $31.4 billion. Th cost estimate comes from a study performed earlier by the American Enterprise Institute, a conservation economic think tank.
The five agencies covered are the Occupational Safety and Health Administration the Food and Drug Administration, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
"It is our goal to balance the debate over regulation by reconceptualizing it and by developing new data," said Mark Green the report's author and the director of Congress Watch, a Nader congressional oversight group.
'This debate is now conceptualized as one over big government when the real issue is corporate crime and public health," he said. "For if the willful corruption of a town's river and air, if the marketing of a dangerous car or tire, if the toleration of a hazardous work site that can lead to death or injury is not criminal, than the word has lost its meaning."
While critical of several studies of the costs of regulation, the report attempts at the same time to catalogue and synthesize estimates of the lives and dollars saved as a result of regulation by the agencies.
The study found, for example, that federal auto and highway enforcement had saved 100,000 lives between 1966 and 1979, that product safety regulation reduced crib deaths by half and that the attainment of Clean Air Act goals by the EPA "would reduce the mortality rate by 7 percent -- saving 125,000 lives every day."
The study also points out that the extra $500 which consumers will pay for the bumper restraint and fuel economy standards that are slated to go into effect by 1984 "will be fully recouped through added savings -- on gasoline and bumper repairs -- in just two years after the purchase."
"Health, safety and environmental protection in other words are prerequisites for full appreciation and enjoyment of all economic goods," said Green. "Sacrificing them for shortterm production is like using the walls of one's house for firewood on a wintry night.