NPRA ’11: Petchems told to confront hostile media, environmentalists

29 March 2011 21:58  [Source: ICIS news]

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (ICIS)--US petrochemical producers should speak up and confront news media, environmentalists and others who are hostile to business, a leading television news personality said on Tuesday.

John Stossel, the host of Fox Business television, told chemical sector executives at the International Petrochemical Conference (IPC) that capitalism and business are not celebrated “because we take for granted all that business and capitalism provide, and you don’t sell your case very well”.

Stossel described widespread prejudice and even hatred for business among mainstream news media and liberals, arguing that they hate business because they see life as a zero-sum system.

“Unless you are economically educated, life appears to be a zero-sum game, where wealth is a fixed sum and if someone gains something, someone else has to lose.”

“But business isn’t a zero-sum game, someone doesn’t get a smaller piece of the pie because someone else gets a larger piece,” he said. 

Citing Microsoft founder and multi-billionaire Bill Gates, Stossel argued that Gates “doesn’t take a larger piece of the pie, he’s making lots and lots of new pies, and your industry also is making pies.”

He said that capitalism and business have given US society and the rest of the world miracles of consumer life, better health, cell phones, air travel and plastics. “Business is win-win or it doesn’t happen,” he said.

“Why do mainstream media hate business? I think they have their heads in the sand, and one reason is that people like you don’t speak up and tell us when we’re wrong,” Stossel said.

A member of the audience said that when chemical officials do speak out, “we are seen as self-serving and it seems to enhance the image of business as the ‘evil empire’”.

“So what,” Stossel said, “suck it up and keep talking. You have to speak up, and if you don’t, you certainly lose the argument by not participating.”

He also was sharply critical of government and regulations, pointing out that the US federal government now consumes 40% of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP).

“For the first 150 years of this nation, government percentage of GDP was less than 5%, and it didn’t really get much beyond that until the Great Society policies of President Lyndon Johnson in 1964, and now the graph line of government growth as a share of GDP is going straight up,” he said. “It is unsustainable,” he added.

He noted that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the federal agency that oversees workplace safety and health policy, has claimed that since the administration was created in 1971, US workplace accidents and fatalities have fallen steadily.

“While that is true,” Stossel said, “someone dug up the rest of the data, which shows that US workplace fatalities had been on a steady decline even before OSHA was created”, and showed no marked acceleration in the decline after OSHA came into play. 

This indicates, he said, that it was the private sector, not government, that was gradually improving the workplace.

“Government is like someone who jumps out in front of a parade and claims to be leading it,” Stossel said.

“Government can’t even count votes accurately,” he said. “And they’re going to take over health care and run your business?  Give me a break.”

He called on business people to “Say no to them, speak up, and celebrate the liberty that has made America great.”

Stossel spoke at the concluding session of the 36th annual IPC, which was sponsored by the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA).

Paul Hodges studies key influencers shaping the chemical industry in Chemicals and the Economy

By: Joe Kamalick
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