Connect the dots. Policy, problem. Policy, success. Politicians seldom do it. Journalists do it way too seldom.
Toyota is suddenly stumbling all over itself to find the reputation for quality that it has dropped and stepped on. Not so suddenly, turns out. The regulators — what a surprise — were asleep at the switch, those who still had jobs after the Bush administration’s cutbacks saved us from the evils of big government. Leaving safety in the hands of industry. Essentially unregulated.
The New York Times has a story today showing that Toyota’s problems were hitting the radar screen of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration years ago — but there were few regulators watching those screens, and, because of budget cuts, problems weren’t pursued.
And accelerators stuck. And people died.
From the Times story:
Six times since 2003 in fact, the safety agency opened inquiries into possible Toyota safety problems, and six times it closed them without any significant action.
In 2008, for instance, the agency examined a request from the owner of a Toyota Tacoma pickup to investigate “sudden and uncontrolled acceleration.” After a preliminary review, the safety agency concluded in a memorandum given to House investigators that: “In view of the need to allocate and prioritize N.H.T.S.A.’s limited resources to best accomplish the agency’s safety mission, the petition is denied.”
In recent years, the agency has dealt with financing and staff cuts in some areas. The Transportation Department announced last week that the administration was seeking money for 66 new positions.
Actions have consequences. We debate often on this blog which is worse — unrestrained government or unrestrained business. Neither is good for America. I just don’t get those who consistently say government is the problem and the marketplace will regulate itself.
From the days of child labor and tainted meat and shoddy army uniforms to too-few cops and inspectors now, we’ve seen that taxes –carefully spent — can support the common good. Taxes and government are not always the problem.
Do we miss you yet, W? Oh, we have hardly begun to fully understand the ways you’ve damaged this country, bubba. And the bill keeps coming due.
— Bruce Benidt