Washington

1. Problem at the Pentagon

Of all the problems that President Jimmy Carter inherits from Gerald Ford, one of the most perplexing is the question of what to do about the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, General George S. Brown. To fire him, an unprecedented gesture, would imply grave misconduct and might provoke serious resentment among the military, who are already suspicious of Carter. And yet to keep him on through the end of his second two-year term in June 1978 could be taken by some as an endorsement of the general’s freely and frequently expressed controversial views on world affairs.

Ordinarily, except in wartime or more fleeting moments of national peril, “the chairman,” as he is called at the Pentagon, is virtually unknown to the general public. The names of Nathan Twining and Thomas Moorer, both of them predecessors of General Brown’s, would probably score a lower public recognition factor in the polls than those of the most obscure unsuccessful vice-presidential candidates. But Brown has carved out a niche for himself in the public consciousness with his indiscreet remarks about the role of American Jews and the state of Israel in the formulation of this country’s foreign policy and in the maintenance of American military preparedness—including, at one point, his repetition of an old canard that the Jewish community controls the banks and the newspapers; and about the decline of Britain and the rise of Iran. If his face is now familiar, it is because he is so often being trotted before the cameras to apologize and explain that he did not really mean what he said.

Last summer, when the Senate confirmed Brown for his second term, it was by a vote of 57 to 34, hardly a ringing endorsement of the top military officer of the United States. That tally came when there had been only two flares of excitement over the chairman’s public statements, and some liberal Democrats who voted for him then, such as Senator Gary Hart of Colorado, say now that, having had additional doses of Brown’s remarks, they have changed their minds. “Enough’s enough.” says Hart; “after a while, he ought to just soldier and quit talking.” Senator Thomas McIntyre, Democrat of New Hampshire, who led the fight against Brown’s second term and was among the thirty-four negative votes, has harsher words: “He sounds sometimes like he’s trying to be secretary of state. . . He lacks all political sense. A military man should stay away from matters of foreign policy.”

Brown will no longer talk, at least not for the record, about the issues that got him into trouble. (He does stoutly deny the accusation that he is anti-Semitic, and on this point other high-ranking officials in the Pentagon back him up. In all his years in the military, Brown says, “I have never known who is Jewish and who is not.”) In fact, when he discusses the role of the military, Brown sounds as if he couldn’t agree more with McIntyre. The product of a military family, Brown insists that he has never voted, because he believes that the military must remain absolutely neutral politically, in both fact and appearance. “It is the position of guys in uniform to serve whatever government is constituted,” he says, “One thing I am glad the United States is free of is the military taking any hand in political affairs. ... I would hate to see this happen, the way you see it in Greece, Turkey, and Portugal, for example.”

Nonetheless, Brown speaks freely on a variety of issues:

NATO. Returning from a trip around the United States and Europe with his NATO counterparts, Brown said he “would like to see others do more” in the way of contributing to the Western defense effort. While he feels that Great Britain and West Germany are carrying their share of the burden, for example, he believes that Canada is not. He points to statistics indicating that Canada spends a lower percentage of its gross national product on defense (2.4 percent) than any other NATO country except Luxembourg (which spends one percent on defense).

South Korea. “It has become a serious question,” Brown acknowledges, “whether we will be in Korea forever.” He recognizes that after twenty-five years, and with South Korea “economically viable and strong militarily,” many Americans have grown restless about the continuing commitment of 40,000 troops there. Brown suggests two sets of circumstances under which the United States might withdraw some or all of its forces: if a peace treaty is finally signed, perhaps under the auspices of the United Nations, formalizing the boundary between North and South Korea where it has been drawn since the end of the Korean War; or “when relations with China are normalized,”especially if the Peking government would agree, as part of the arrangement, to serve as “a restraining influence" on the North Koreans.

American defense spending. Although he says he has absolutely no misgivings about serving under Carter, Brown insists that he cannot agree with Carter’s campaign argument that there is several billion dollars’ worth of waste in the defense budget. “We work hard over here to identify inefficiencies and waste . . . the effort is constantly going on.”he says; “but it’s getting a lot harder to squeeze out any more juice.” Brown complains that the Pentagon must struggle with a popular belief that the entire military machine ought to be productive and efficient, an impossible goal. “When we shoot ammunition or burn fuel, of course there’s waste,”he explains, “but that is an investment in readiness.”The only way to achieve new savings that Brown can see is “to further reduce defense installations"; but he recognizes enormous problems in getting “the proper authorization and support for this on Capitol Hill,”where congressmen are constantly battling to prevent the closing of bases and loss of military-related jobs in their districts.

Despite all of the trouble he has caused, Brown apparently commands an unusual degree of respect and admiration from his military colleagues. Although he came up through the ranks as an Air Force officer, he is considered to have a healthy ecumenical spirit about the services, in part because of the time he spent as military assistant to former secretaries of defense Thomas Gates and Robert McNamara. In the estimation of some Pentagon and congressional stalwarts, that has made Brown particularly adept at handling the old problem of interservice rivalry. He is also given high marks as an administrator, and notwithstanding his own feeling that American commitments to Israel may constitute a “burden” on this country’s military stocks, Brown acted promptly and efficiently when he was in charge of delivering the weapons Israel needed during the Yom Kippur War of 1973. As departing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld puts it, being chairman of the joint chiefs “is a rough job. and he’s darn good at it.”

The questions are increasingly posed in Congress, however, whether the job of the chairman is really all that important and whether it makes much difference who holds it at any given time. “I think he’s got less power than meets the eye,”says Gary Hart, admittedly a newcomer with only two years on the Senate Armed Services Committee. Hart makes the point that since any chairman will have received virtually all of his training in the military, he will be only “the result of the process, the system,” and on issues such as new weapons systems and foreign military sales, he is unlikely to hold views that differ sharply from those of anyone else in the Pentagon. McIntyre, generalizing from his opposition to the renomination of Brown, favors restricting any chairman of the joint chiefs to a single two-year term: “With all the fine military men we have in the pipeline,” says the New Hampshire senator, “there’s no reason this job shouldn’t be passed around. Two years is enough.”Others on Capitol Hill, angered by Brown’s remarks and emboldened by the antimilitary spirit that emerged after the Vietnam War, want to take the matter further: they wonder whether it is altogether wise for the chairman of the joint chiefs to be a member of the National Security Council.

Ultimately, Brown’s most important qualification for the job was the fact that he enjoyed a close relationship with Gerald Ford and, especially after Rumsfeld moved from the White House to the Pentagon, with the secretary of defense. Although peacetime dictates a different kind of relationship from wartime, the Ford– Brown compatibility has been compared with that of Franklin Roosevelt and Admiral William D. Leahy, or John F. Kennedy and Maxwell Taylor. Kennedy, like Carter, inherited a chairman, Lyman Lemnitzer, whom he would have liked to fire but did not; instead, he sat out Lemnitzer’s two-year term and appointed Taylor as a special White House military adviser until the job at the Pentagon opened up.

Carter has made much of his own Navy background, and he may have in mind putting a Navy man in the job. As it happens, Brown’s immediate predecessor was a Navy man: Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, who served as chairman from 1970 to 1974. According to the recently published On Watch by retired Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, the former chief of naval operations, Moorer voiced feelings and complaints about the “risks” inherent in the American commitment to Israel that were virtually identical to those of Brown. “The Brown problem,”in short, is not limited to the general himself.

Brown insists that he has no desire to match General Earle G. Wheeler’s six years as chairman from 1964 to 1970 and that he plans to retire and find other work in 1978. Whether he will be permitted that graceful exit may depend upon his ability to be quiet and politically wellbehaved in the meantime.

2. A new man on two old cases

“Not another investigation!” moaned the Englishwoman, an accidental companion during a recent taxicab ride and a longtime resident of Washington who still professes not to understand the peculiar political ways of Americans. “How ridiculous. Why not leave well enough alone? What’s to be gained from all this? It’s just a waste of the taxpayers’ money.”

That was the reaction of many skeptics in the capital, not to say across the country, when they awoke after the presidential election to realize that the House of Representatives had, in the midst of the campaign, created for itself a new Select Committee on Assassinations, with the special mandate to investigate yet again the murders of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, and Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1968. This was the same House, of course, that barely six months earlier had refused to publish the final report of its Select Committee on Intelligence, headed by Congressman Otis Pike, Democrat of New York, and had berated both the Pike Committee and its counterpart in the Senate, chaired by Senator Frank Church, Democrat of Idaho, for provoking distrust of the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and other federal intelligence agencies.

Ah, but this time, insist the elders of the House, there are important differences. For one thing, the decision to create this panel was the result of a broad consensus among people who were motivated by various concerns. The prime mover was Congressman Henry Gonzalez, Democrat of Texas, who was riding in the Dallas motorcade with Kennedy on the day he was shot, and who, troubled by the Watergate scandals and by revelations of misconduct by the FBI and CIA, fought for a year and a half to get such a committee appointed. He was joined by, among others, Congressman Thomas Downing, a Democrat from Virginia, who came to suspect a conspiracy in the Kennedy case after being shown a spectator’s film of JFK’s assassination by a group of University of Virginia Law School students, one of whom was his son. By the time the Congressional Black Caucus had thrown its support to the effort, on the condition that the King assassination be included, the vote to establish the committee became 280-65. (As finally constituted, the committee includes four black members, and was chaired first by Downing, who did not seek re-election last year and who is to be succeeded by Gonzalez. It recently recruited Congressman John Anderson of Illinois, the influential chairman of the House Republican Conference, to replace another Republican who was defeated for re-election.)

More to the point, though, the committee hired as its chief counsel and staff director not a seasoned Capitol Hill infighter, a young, well-connected upstart, or a political manipulator, but Richard A. Sprague, fifty-one, a professional murder investigator and prosecutor. Sprague bargained for an unusual degree of authority–he has the sole responsibility to hire and fire a staff that he expects may grow to include 170 people—and, in taking the job, passed up an opportunity to run for district attorney of Philadelphia. (Among the unsuccessful applicants for the job was Stewart Udall, former secretary of the interior: he was considered to be too close to the Kennedys to qualify.)

Sprague—who estimates that he has participated in over 10,000 criminal trials, including at least 200 murder cases, during a career that spans nineteen years—is the man who, as a special prosecutor, convicted the killers of Joseph Yablonski, the original leader of reform forces in the United Mine Workers of America. He approaches his new task with a studied irreverence toward the standard procedures of the legislative body that is his latest employer. Even though he must await a large appropriation from the newly elected House before the investigation can really get under way (the committee had $150,000 in start-up funding for the last three months of 1976, and it is seeking $6.5 million for its first year), Sprague refuses to take the usual and prudent step of setting a target date by which he expects the committee’s work to be done. “It is an unwise idea.”he says, “to give people [including potential witnesses with information about the assassinations] a time barrier by which they would be safe. Investigators have to know that time is on their side.”To promise the House that he will be finished in two years, he suggests, would be like promising a jury in a major criminal trial that it will be sequestered for only three months– always a mistake, in his estimation. As for the opinions and the tentative conclusions of the congressmen themselves about the assassinations, “they are not evidence,” says Sprague undiplomatically: “they are lacking in relevance to me.”

Ironically, Sprague’s fledgling staff has set up shop in a remote corner of a building that until recently served as the home of the Identification Division of the FBI, an agency whose performance will be under investigation. There is no escape there from the sawdust, hammering, and clanging associated with its conversion into a House Office Building Annex, and about every half-hour a passing freight train drowns out all conversation. Despite its obscure location, the committee’s office is already attracting furtive types who insist that they have exclusive kernels of evidence or new theories that will unlock old mysteries. Sprague’s policy for dealing with such people is permissive: “We have to have the patience and the willingness to explore each and every thing that has the appearance of materiality. ... If only one out of a hundred things turns out to be a real kernel, that’s okay. . . The public should be able to feel that everything has been pursued.”

But to be so thorough, he warns, will require vast resources, especially since he will not allow the FBI or CIA to do any of the committee’s legwork. Sprague hopes, for example, that he will not be suspected of trying “to build a little duchy” when the committee hires its own polygraph operator and voice-stress evaluators. He views such machines as standard tools in the effort to determine whether there were any unknown “participants in these homicides.” Another standard technique Sprague used during his years in Philadelphia was to go immediately to the scene of the crime after a murder was committed; that opportunity has obviously been lost in these cases. Sprague acknowledges that the passage of more than thirteen years since one assassination and almost nine years since the other makes any new solution of them elusive, “but certainly still worth trying.... If, thirteen years from now, a skeleton were dug up in Michigan and it turned out to be Jimmy Hoffa, people wouldn’t say, “Don’t look at it. Don’t investigate.’ ”

Initially, at least, Sprague plans to continue teaching a Friday afternoon course in trial tactics at the Temple University Law School and to continue working on cases he picked up since going into private practice in Philadelphia two years ago–corporate fraud cases; a case challenging a trial judge’s use of the contempt power; another involving an acknowledged Mafia hit man’s effort to force the state of New Jersey to keep a plea-bargain; and one concerning a doctor in Detroit accused of mutilating dead bodies.

He sees no conflicts of interest there, or in the fact that for several years he was the first assistant to former Philadelphia District Attorney Arlen Specter, who, at an earlier stage of his career, was on the staff of the Warren Commission and devised the theorv that Kennedy was killed by a single bullet from Lee Harvey Oswald’s gun. Sprague says that he and Specter were “too busy” ever to discuss the single-bullet theory or anything else about the Warren Commission, and he insists that he has never read either the commission’s report or the attacks on it by its critics, including radical lawyer Mark Lane. Lane and another assassination-conspiracy theorist. Bernard Fensterwald (who has represented James Earl Ray. the man convicted of killing King), played a role in recommending Sprague to the committee, but Sprague, Downing, and Gonzalez all claim that there is no room in the investigation for such interested parties. The only vague bias to which Sprague will admit is a newfound suspicion of the FBI, the CIA, and other federal agencies, all growing out of the Watergate disclosures, “which made me start thinking that the highest officials of the land were doing things not based upon the public interest.”

Those in Congress and the public who are expecting a flamboyant performance from Sprague may be disappointed. He is a low-key, white-shirted character with a sonorous voice, not given to dramatic overstatement. The son of two psychoanalysts, he projects an attitude of great patience with and cool detachment from those around him. He expects most of the committee’s work to be done in closed sessions, but says it may interrogate some witnesses in public once it has reached “certain plateaus"; he shows no hesitation about bringing perjury charges. “This will.” Sprague promises, “be different from the ordinary congressional investigation.”

3. Whipping boy

Congressman Joe Skubitz, Republican of Kansas, was in a frenzy when he took to the floor of the House of Representatives during the debate over the 1977 appropriations bill for the Departments of Labor and Health, Education and Welfare and related agencies. An appropriations bill offers a perfect opportunity for angry legislators to wreak vengeance on their least favorite government agencies– to force them to operate according to strict congressional rules—and on this occasion Skubitz aimed his fire at a controversial section of the Labor Department, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, known to its friends and enemies alike as OSHA.

When the legislation that created OSHA was passed in December 1970, in the waning days of the Ninety-first Congress, Skubitz reminded his colleagues, “it was the intent of Congress to create within the Department of Labor a cadre of experts effective in the improvement of the safety and health of our country’s workplaces.” But, thundered the congressman, who represents the southeastern corner of his state, “we did not create experts; we did not create improvements; we created a monster, a monster which does not have the guts to question big business but centers upon small business that cannot afford to . . . strike back. What started out to be a laudable program has turned into a nightmare, in part because of arrogant inspectors who feel they have not done a job unless they find something wrong in every little plant.”

What really offended Skubitz, though, was that OSHA now wanted, as he put it, “to expand its horizons”: it was beginning to exercise its jurisdiction over farms and farmers. He ridiculed the agency’s dictum that any farm with five or more employees must have a toilet available within five minutes’ walking distance to all employees at all times. (If a man could walk half a mile in five minutes, the congressman calculated, “that means that on every square mile [of cultivated land] a farmer would be required to construct a minimum of nine privies. . . . OSHA [is] the mandator of the ‘privy on the plains.’”) Then there was OSHA’s declaration that farmers shall equip their tractors with seat belts and require their farmhands to buckle up before setting out on the fields. “Oh yes.”said Skubitz to the delighted laughter of his fellow OSHA-loathers in the House, “and now OSHA is going to require roll-over bars– so if the tractor operator enters a drag race they will be protected if a tractor overturns.” Yet the action that most amused and upset Skubitz and other congressmen from agricultural areas was OSHA’s publication of a pamphlet intended to help farmhands dealing with beef cattle to understand and comply with new safety regulations. Written in elementary language for people of limited literacy, it included the statement: “The best way to stop an accident is to prevent it,” and the warning: “When floors are wet and slippery with manure, you can have a bad fall. You could also trip over junk or trash.” (“The material in these pamphlets seems to be written for a New Yorker about to visit a farm for the first time,” complained Congressman Thomas Hagedorn, Republican of Minnesota.)

Skubitz’s revenge was to sponsor an amendment to the appropriations bill exempting all farms with ten or fewer employees from OSHA’s jurisdiction. Originally, he had hoped to exempt farms with up to twenty-five employees; to suggestions that this might “castrate” OSHA, Skubitz replied, “If castration is the only solution, I would sooner castrate the zealots who are drawing up regulations at OSHA than let them destroy the smaller farmers of America.” But now he was compromising, and with much of the House riled up over the sins of OSHA, his amendment to exclude the smallest farms passed by a vote of 273-124.

A pained expression appears on the face of Morton Corn, the industrial hvgienist from the University of Pittsburgh who is the third administrator of OSHA, whenever he is reminded of the cowmanure pamphlet. “Being a city boy, I gave them [the opponents of OSHA] some very good ammunition.” he admits with a shrug– but adds quickly that the pamphlet was only one of 119 audiovisual aids produced by the same “reliable contractor,” was intended for limited distribution by the Agricultural Extension Service, and cost a mere $10,000 to turn out. Then, perhaps a bit tired of defending OSHA, Corn sounds bitter: “If I can get as much mileage out of the gas in my car as they did from this. I will be doing okay.” As for the portable toilets on the farm (in bureaucratic jargon, “field sanitary facilities,” one for “each forty employees or fraction thereof”), Corn insists that the regulation was only a proposal, still subject to hearings and revision at the time it was revealed, and he admits that it may have “stemmed from a misperception.” Nevertheless, it was recommended by OSHA’s own agricultural advisory committee, composed of people from larger farms. “I feel,” says Corn, “like someone who tests the water with his foot, only to have a tidal wave break over him.”

For a professional in the field of occupational health and safety—and one of those Ph.D.’s who come to Washington, insist upon being called “Doctor.”and try to remain above the sordid political battle– Corn’s service at OSHA since November 1975 must have been very disillusioning indeed. Whatever his intentions, he found himself presiding over an agency that had become the latest, handiest political whipping boy in town. In the view of the small businessmen and farmers who have borne the brunt of its enforcement activities, and of the congressmen who receive the complaints, OSHA is the symbol of all that is wrong with the federal bureaucracy: it is arrogant, petty, insensitive, and a waste of effort and money.

Viewed from another perspective, however, OSHA is a historic development in American government and the regulation of a free economy. Labor unions crusaded for decades for the establishment of just such an agency, which would require employers to worry not only about their workers’ productivity but also about their safety from job-related injuries and illnesses. The legislation approved in 1970, which created OSHA and its companion research and investigation arm, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH, under the control of HEW), amounted to a recognition that the American workplace was not, on the whole, a safe place. The more sophisticated the research and the statistics become, the worse the picture: occupational accidents are now estimated to take the lives of at least 13,000 Americans a year and to injure perhaps five times as many. Occupational health hazards are believed to contribute to about half of all deaths from cancer in the United States and at least 5 percent of those connected with heart disease, the country’s leading killer. Although the threat becomes obvious and dramatic only occasionally (as in the poisoning of dozens of residents of Hopewell, Virginia, and the pollution of the nearby James River by derivatives of the pesticide Kepone, which was manufactured in Hopewell without appropriate safety standards), it lurks as a major social and medical issue. These are the problems OSHA is meant to uncover and cure.

Yet a view of OSHA as a nuisance, and even an evil, is one point readily agreed upon by people who are otherwise poles apart politically, such as Senator Edmund Muskie, Democrat of Maine, and Ronald Reagan, the former Republican governor of California. How did an agency with such noble goals and missions come to be a governmental pariah, the topic of nasty jokes and bipartisan movements for abolition?

One colossal error was the congressionally authorized method by which OSHA adopted its initial standards: rather than go through the cumbersome process of drafting regulations and then holding public hearings on them, the agency simply borrowed wholesale from the “consensus standards” already used as voluntary safety guidelines by business and professional groups. (The existence of such guidelines was one of the major arguments of those who opposed the creation of OSHA during congressional debate.) That meant, for example, that OSHA’s standards on fire prevention came from the National Fire Protection Association– whose standards were outof-date, narrow, misdirected, and very difficult to comply with under ordinary circumstances. Another consensus standard dictated that employers could not put ice cubes in their employees’ drinking water; it dated back to the time when ice cubes were made from polluted river water. The rules on the guarding of machinery so that exposed parts will not injure workers or passersby took 46 pages of small print to set out in the Code of Federal Regulations. When OSHA inspectors made their earliest rounds of plants under their jurisdiction, they sometimes seemed to overlook major safety hazards in favor of nitpicking lists of “non-serious” violations based on oldfashioned standards and carrying a fine of ten or fifteen dollars each. Thus, a small businessman might be cited and fined because the railing along one of his stairways was not exactly forty-two inches from upper surface to floor.

Another problem that plagued OSHA was its early politicalization. Although President Richard Nixon praised the bill creating the agency as “one of the most important pieces of legislation . . . ever passed by the Congress,” his choice for its first administrator was George Guenther, a hosiery manufacturer from Reading, Pennsylvania, who had already held a political appointment in the Labor Department. Under Guenther, OSHA missed its initial opportunity to set a tough, meaningful industrial health standard– one governing the degree of acceptable contamination of the air in certain plants by lethal asbestos fibers. Against the advice of NIOSH, the unions, and the medical community, the agency decided not to rock the boat in an election year, and in June 1972 it adopted a permissive asbestos regulation favored by business. A week later, Guenther wrote a memorandum to his superiors in the Labor Department that became notorious. It promised that “no highly controversial standards" would be promulgated at politically inopportune moments and urged the White House to view the “great potential of OSHA”—a “properly managed OSHA”—as a means of raising campaign contributions from the business community. (The memo surfaced only later, during the Watergate hearings.)

Guenther’s successor was a Republican unionist, John Stender, a vice president of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers. Having served as a Republican state senator in Washington, Stender had a sense of how to deal with a grumbling Congress, and he also restored some of OSHA’s credibility with the labor movement. He supervised the issuance of standards governing the use of fourteen toxic substances, including vinyl chloride, a plastic used in many consumer products and suspected of causing a form of liver cancer. Stender was accused of bias of another sort– in favor of stringent noise standards, even at the expense of other forms of regulation, because he himself suffered a hearing impairment after years of work in a shipyard.

Compared to his two predecessors, Morton Corn “has the political sense of a gnat,” according to a colleague and admirer in the Labor Department. When President Gerald Ford, fighting with Reagan for the Republican presidential nomination, set up a White House task force to review the operation of OSHA, Corn failed to perceive it as a threat to his agency’s integrity. It didn’t matter: the task force reviewed all the arguments against OSHA and concluded, reluctantly, that the agency was not expendable after all.

But Corn’s lack of political sense and his naiveté about the rules of bureaucratic survival in Washington may be his strongest weapons in the drive to gain greater effectiveness and acceptance for OSHA. Last October, just ten days before the presidential election, he pressed ahead with controversial standards governing the acceptable level of exposure to coke oven emissions. Meanwhile, he has instituted a systematic review and revision of the most hotly disputed and outdated consensus standards taken on by the agency in 1971. Corn insists that although this process is slow and sometimes painful, it is the only legitimate way to cut down on OSHA’s reputation as a nuisance—better, say, than simply telling inspectors to ignore minor violations. Says Corn, “An inspector is sworn to cite what he sees; otherwise he can get nailed to the wall himself! . . .You can talk to the inspectors and flavor things . . . but you can’t literally say to them, ‘Disobey the law.’ ”

Because of his own academic background, which includes research for the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute, Corn has also promised to build up a corps of health experts as big as, or larger than, OSHA’s crew of safety specialists, so that occupationally induced cancers and other diseases can be dealt with more forcefully.

Still, the complaints, attacks, and imposition of restrictions continue. In addition to exempting small farms, Congress attached a rider to the last appropriations bill which prohibits OSHA from assessing penalties against any employer who has fewer than ten “non-serious” violations the first time around. Some of the founding fathers of OSHA, such as Senator Harrison Williams, Democrat of New Jersey, and Congressman William Steiger, Republican of Wisconsin, are vigilant in their defense of the agency, but organizations like the House Republican Task Force for Government Executive Agency Review (GEAR) and the American Conservative Union’s “Stop OSHA Committee,” both headed by Congressman George Hansen, Republican of Idaho, may be gaining adherents.

Some people who feel they have been persecuted by OSHA vow Thoreau-like disobedience. Howard Dearborn, for example, the owner of a precision machine shop in Fryeburg, Maine, has spent $3000 in legal fees rather than pay a twentyfive-dollar fine assessed against him for failing to replace a cable that had damaged insulation and exposed bare conductors; he says the government will have to put a lien on his plant to collect. Two construction firms, which were fined $600 and $5000 respectively by OSHA in connection with the deaths of workmen in North Carolina and West Virginia, have asked the Supreme Court to declare the agency’s enforcement procedure unconstitutional; they claim that OSHA violates the Constitution’s guarantee of a jury trial in all cases “where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars,” and that it illegally circumvents the judicial process.

Many legislators advocate a redistribution of OSHA’s functions to the states. Congressman Skubitz, having done his part for the small farmer, now plans a rescue mission for the small businessman; his first priority after re-election was a series of public meetings in each county in his congressional district, “to let the people come in and tell how they’ve been harassed.”

Congressman Steiger, for his part, insists that despite OSHA’s problems in arriving at the right balance on safety issues, “it has performed magnificently in the health field.” He speculates that the controversy surrounding the agency’s earliest efforts is probably no more serious and shrill than that which accompanied passage of the Social Security Act and the Taft-Hartley Act. Eventually, he predicts, OSHA will gain just as much acceptance as those two laws have.

–SANFORD J. UNGAR