A report in The Bellingham Herald states that “Washington state regulators have recommended BNSF Railway be fined up to $700,000 for failing to properly report more than a dozen hazardous materials spills.” This is an excellent opportunity for citizens to assess the state of regulatory capture in our country.
This has become a front burner issue since the 2008 financial crisis cost the American public an estimated $12.8 trillion, and yet no one was even charged with a crime, let alone successfully prosecuted and punished. This stands in contrast to the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s, which cost tax payers an estimated $160 billion (only 1.25 percent the cost of the 2008 crisis), and which resulted in more than 1,100 criminal prosecutions. My inference is that not only are banks too big too fail, they are too powerful to even prosecute for wrongdoing. Interestingly, according to a study published by a Princeton academic last year, it appears that our country might already be an oligarchy, concluding that “average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence” on American government. Do we live in a democracy, where government of the people, by the people, and for the people, holds power over all, or is that merely a thin veneer, a sham?
Here we have a microcosm. State regulators recommend fining BNSF $700,000. Let’s see if it happens.