Skip to main content

Texas and Bangladesh. Two places that are literally worlds apart. One is the second largest state in the United States of America, a center for the rich oil and high-tech industries with a GDP of $1.2 trillion, and known for its vast sprawl, fiercely proud culture, and larger-than-life personality. The other is a developing nation in South Asia, a center for low cost garment manufacturing with a GDP of $119 billion, and known more for its overpopulation, poverty and political corruption than for its culture.

But despite this wide dichotomy, the two places do have something in common -- rapid economic growth. Texas is the fastest-growing economy in the United States and Bangladesh is considered by many to be an emerging world economy and part of the 'Next Eleven.'

Those should be badges of honor except that the economic philosophy fueling that growth is one that allows the exploitation of workers and treats their safety as a secondary concern in the pursuit of profits. The recent fertilizer plant explosion in Texas, which killed 15 people, and the tragic collapse of the clothing factory in Bangladesh, which has claimed more than a thousand lives, may be accidents, but they were accidents that occurred due to poor regulatory oversight and lax safety standards exercised by the private sector.

Note: Please vote in the Poll after the Diary.

Texas authorities have launched a criminal probe into the fertilizer plant explosion, but whatever happened, some facts are indisputable. The plant violated federal regulations by failing to disclose their storage of 270 tons of ammonium nitrate -- a highly explosive substance -- there were no fire sprinklers in the warehouse, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration had not done a full safety inspection since 1985, and a partial review in 2011 resulted in a meager fine for safety violations. Throughout this, the plant remained operational and profitable for West Fertilizer Co. The Bangladesh clothing factory disaster, similarly, was the outcome of shoddy building, lack of oversight by the government, and pure greed on the part of the owners.

But this is where things really turn bizarre.

In response to the factory collapse and international pressure, the Bangladeshi government has shut down three factories owned by the largest garment manufacturer in the country -- due to extreme safety violations, and has promised a review of facilities nationwide. In addition, the government has announced its intent to raise the minimum wage of garment workers, which currently stands at a shamefully low $38 a month and exacerbates their misery. While it remains to be seen if the Bangladeshi government will keep its promises, and while it is guaranteed that garment manufacturers will create a stink, these are still highly welcome and necessary moves.

Texas, however, seems to be going in the opposite direction.

Instead of acknowledging the breakdown in industrial safety that the fertilizer plant explosion represents, Texas Governor Rick Perry has instead adopted the stance that it is precisely the lack of oversight that attracts business to the state and that tougher safety regulations would just hamper the ability of Texans to make more money. This despite the fact that Texas boasts the highest number of workplace fatalities (more than 400 annually) in the country, including from fires and explosions at the state's many chemical and industrial plants. Adding insult to injury, state lawmakers even nixed $60 million in funding for the training of volunteer firefighters, something that should be a no-brainer for any state.

Politics, as they say, makes strange bedfellows, and apparently so does economics. I am sure that both Texans and Bangladeshis would be equally surprised that they share anything, let alone a philosophy, but that seems to be the case.

The only difference is that unlike Bangladesh, Texas is already extremely wealthy and can afford to adopt a more balanced and humanitarian approach to economic growth. Instead, the former seems to be modernizing while Governor Perry pushes his state towards an unreasonably purist form of capitalism. I find that astonishing.

Economic growth is fantastic but it is of little value when it comes at the cost of workers' safety. I know that Texas is a red state but Governor Perry should put aside political ideology for the sake of protecting the safety and rights of workers. Otherwise, Bangladesh might just outpace the Lone Star state in good business sense, and I doubt the Republicans will like that.

SANJAY SANGHOEE is a political and business commentator, and the author of "Killing Wall Street". For more information, please visit www.killingwallstreet.com

Poll

Should Texas have stronger Workplace Safety Regulations?

100%17 votes
0%0 votes

| 17 votes | Vote | Results

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site