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Wealth is health.

There are ideas whose time has come. And there are ideas that should have been strangled at birth. An example of the latter was a bizarre theory advanced by the Office of Management and Budget recently. The O.M.B. contended that new health regulations for workers in the construction, agriculture and maritime industries establishing permissible exposure limits for toxic substances should be suspended because OSHA hadn't adequately considered the adverse effect on workers' health of businesses' cost of compliance.

The O.M.B.'s disingenuous medical theory was that the extra expense of implementing the regulations could force employers to cut wages or lay off employees. Never mind that this has not been the experience in industries where they are already in effect. The O.M.B. said that workers' health might suffer because "the positive effect of wealth on health has been established both theoretically and empirically. Richer workers on average buy more leisure time, more nutritious food, more preventive health care and smoke and drink less than poorer workers."

Some might accuse the O.M.B. of satire. Oh no, not that cold-eyed bunch of soulless accountants. More likely the analysis was a gambit in the ongoing White House drive to cadge additional campaign contributions from business by gutting or delaying health and safety regulations (see Christine Triano and Nancy Watzman, "Immoral, Illegal and Deadly," March 23). It's also a cynical attempt to evade a Supreme Court decision barring cost-benefit analysis of OSHA health rules. Finally, it's a sneak attack on all regulation, making cost to business the decisive criterion.

But the O.M.B. unintentionally made a good point: In this country lack of money is harmful to your health--which is why we need national health care, a higher minimum wage, stronger unions and more jobs.

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Title Annotation:Office of Management and Budget report on Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations
Publication:The Nation
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Apr 27, 1992
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