Federal and NYC Governments Make It as Hard As Possible for 9/11 Victims
Every time I write about how the response to the 9/11 illnesses caused
by exposure to Ground Zero are being handled in a way which follows a
profits over safety model and the tort "reform" movement, it is harder
to believe that it is actually happening.
But it is happening. It is very much happening.
In short, the federal, state, and city governments (although primarily
the federal) collectively minimized the risk of exposure to
contaminants at Ground Zero, and encouraged people to return and work
there before it was safe for human occupancy.
My previous posts highlight how the challenges faced by sick 9/11
workers (as well as nearby residents) in getting access to justice and
compensation for the negligence of the government officials who minimized
the risks of exposure are symptoms of the problems of the larger system.
The difficulties with high burdens of proof, drawn out appeals processes, and
overly restrictive statues of limitation can affect us all if we get
hurt. (read the Center for Justice and Democracy report on workers' comp. for details)
Similarly, they explain that the model and approach adopted by
government officials was a financial security over human security
Amazingly enough, Tuesday’s developments further support my
characterization of the response to the health needs of the Ground Zero health victims.
In short, the narrative is this:
Government officials make a decision to prematurely encourage people to
return to Lower Manhattan. They know the risks of health effects are
high, but they put their political and financial interests first (see
more about why here). However, when people DO get sick, those responsible for making them sick cry foul:
They complain that it costs too much to help them all.
They complain it's too hard to know who was really hurt at the WTC and
who is "faking."
They complain that it will hurt the economy, or bankrupt government.
But what they forget to mention is that THEY are responsible for the
illnesses because THEY chose not to be careful, because at the time
they felt it would be too expensive to do so.
But they don't want to invoke personal responsibility for their
actions, and instead to reduce their liability costs, they make it at difficult as possible to get
compensation for the mistake they are responsible for.
As my previous posts have stated, the governmental response to the 9/11 health problems fits almost perfectly into this model.
Last week’s developments makes my previous framework ring all the more true.
I think the full Daily News Article speaks for itself in making this connection, and so I have included it in full below:
No $2B for 9/11 heroes, Senate dumps Hil's bid for med aid, by LISA L. COLANGELO and MICHAEL SAUL in New York & MICHAEL McAULIFF in Washington DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS
Senate Republicans killed a bid for nearly $2 billion to help sick 9/11 responders yesterday - blocking the measure without letting it come up for a vote.
Senate leaders invoked parliamentary rules, saying Sen. Hillary Clinton's (D-N.Y.) amendment to a measure funding port security was not "germane."
People suffering the effects from 9/11's toxic dust were outraged by the move.
"How could they just throw this out?" said Laura Picurro, of Toms River, N.J., whose husband, Joe, became disabled after doing volunteer iron work at Ground Zero.
"Maybe they should talk to these sick and dying workers," she said. "I find it absurd they didn't even consider it."
Clinton's amendment would have provided $5,800 a year for five years for each person sickened from Ground Zero exposure. She vowed to resubmit the measure or propose other legislation to help responders and nearby residents. "Their country should answer their calls for help," Clinton said.
Although Clinton got stiffed on money for the sick, she did obtain passage of a measure to create a national monitoring system to keep tabs on people who suffer from responding to future attacks or disasters.
Mayor Bloomberg, who has been reluctant to link the illnesses of 9/11 responders to their service, said he "absolutely" endorsed Clinton's proposal.
"This was a national attack on the country, and I think the federal government has a responsibility," he said. "We cannot handle this ourselves. We just don't have enough money."
He also inched toward accepting the idea that the workers' time at Ground Zero is making them sick - a proposition the city has resisted as it fights lawsuits from victims.
"Clearly, people who worked on the site, or the closer they were, the more symptoms they have that are very troublesome," Bloomberg said.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan), who has been pushing the city and federal governments to do more, said she was encouraged by the mayor's statement. "The city's response is getting better by the day. Hopefully, the mayor will be able to get the Bush administration to face up to its responsibilities," she said.
The FDNY's top medical officer also spelled out grim details of the health problems spawned by 9/11 in a City Council committee hearing yesterday.
Dr. Kerry Kelly said the department found declining lung function among its members was 12 times worse after 9/11 than the five years before. She added that thousands had improved after treatment, however.
After the hearing, union leaders slammed Congress. "Our call for help is being ignored," said Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch. (link)
What happened and is happening to make the battle to access justice
for these injured responders, workers, and residents is not only
unfortunate, but it is happening across the country thanks to the tort
This movement attempts to limit the damages that we can recover,
decrease the amount of time which we have to file suit, and raise the
burdens of proof which we must meet.
But most damagingly, the tort "reform" movement points to a boogieman called lawsuits and lawyers. This boogieman, they say, will negatively affect jobs and the economy whenever people who are harmed bring suit to hold them accountable.
Tuesday, the federal, and apparently the city government adopted this same tort “reform” approach which shortchanges our nation’s greatest heroes: those who rose to the call of duty on and after 9/11.
If I am ever able to meet President Bush in the near future I would not, like most people, have a question for him.
Instead I would have a demand.
Stop having photo ops at Ground Zero until you stop turning your back
on those whose name you invoke when politically expedient.
It's hard for me to think of something more shameful that a President
could do, but then maybe, I'm just not that creative.