Government Agencies Responsible for Personal Injuries and Wrongful Deaths
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Government Agencies Responsible for Personal Injuries and Wrongful Deaths

Wednesday, July 08, 2009By Richard Alexander

When the United States Navy rescued Captain Richard Phillips of the cargo ship Maersk Alabama from Somali pirates, it was an opportunity for Americans to take pride in the selfless acts of some brave public servants.

It was also a rare example of a government body actually doing its job and protecting the citizens of the United States.

Much more common are the stories of government agencies that fail to do their jobs and cause wrongful deaths, personal injuries, and economic hardships for the people those agencies are supposed to serve and protect.

When the pirates threatened to kill Captain Phillips, Navy Seals acted quickly and decisively. They displayed a sense of honor and dedication to duty that is sadly lacking from our elected and appointed officials at many levels of government. The Seals’ put their dedication to duty above their own self-interests. That is, after all, the job description for a public servant.

But instead of acting in the best interests of those whom they serve, too many government officials think only of themselves. They use their offices to fill their need for power and to promote their own financial gain, and they betray the trust placed in them by the people whom they are supposed to be serving.

Their corruption, ineptitude and indifference put all Americans in totally unnecessary danger. From the FDA to the SEC to state medical boards, government agencies are failing to protect Americans from deadly foods and drugs, disastrous financial scams, and dangerous doctors.

Here in California, a report from Public Citizen has found that the state Medical Board has been extremely lenient in its disciplining of doctors. That means that doctors who deliver substandard care are highly unlikely to have their licenses revoked or suspended, and their patients are quite likely to receive harmful or inadequate treatment.

Across the country and around the world, individuals and businesses are suffering economic distress because of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) failure to regulate investment banks and to act on the subprime mortgage mess.

"The subprime issue is a direct consequence of the SEC's failure to act proactively to intercept fraud as it develops," Gary Aguirre, a former senior investigative counsel for the SEC, said. "The SEC, instead of watching Wall Street, insulates it."

Another SEC failure has cost investors who placed their trust in Bernard Madoff more than $50 billion. In all of these cases, the SEC had information that should have spurred it to launch investigations and to take action to stop the damage, but the agency refused to act. In the Madoff case, the SEC received a tip in 1999 and still did nothing. Because the SEC chose not to protect the people who invested with Madoff, many of them have lost everything.

In the United States, we have federal, state, and local agencies whose assignment is to protect us from natural and man-made dangers. For just about every problem, we have an agency, a bureau, or a board. If those agencies would do their jobs properly, we could all feel much safer, but government officials routinely ignore their responsibilities and expose every American to personal injury and illness through everything from drywall to drinking water, which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) now allows to come from the tap mixed with rocket fuel.

At Gettysburg, Abraham Lincoln promised a government for the people, but we now have a government that works for the government and for the friends of government officials.

Our failing government is certainly not what our Founding Fathers envisioned in 1776 or what President Lincoln spoke of at Gettysburg. President Obama campaigned on a platform of change, and one vital change that he can institute will be to make government officials and employees serve and protect the citizens of the United States, not the financial interests of big businesses and big government.

As individuals, we can all make our voices loud, and we can support organizations such as Public Citizen and Project On Government Oversight that expose the failures and the corruption in government. Our tax dollars pay government employees, and we have every right to expect all of them to do their jobs as well as those Navy Seals did theirs.

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Richard Alexander

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