Vaccinations Are Infrastructure?

You may have heard of the $3.5 trillion “Infrastructure” Bill that is trying to work its way through Congress.

One of the many concerns has been that there are social programs in the bill that no one, unless you are the Biden administration, considers to be “infrastructure.”

For example:

The resolution instructs to fill the Medicaid coverage gap, providing insurance for those who earn above the threshold to qualify for Medicare in their state, but below the minimum income that makes them eligible for the Affordable Care Act’s tax credit. This could cover up to 2 million adults across the country.

Medicare would be expanded to lower the qualifying age from 65 to 60, and to include dental, vision, and hearing benefits. The budget would be used to pay for medical leave, and provide long-term senior and disability care. The resolution includes investments to address the shortage of medical professionals and for specific programs for maternal and behavioral health, and reducing racial inequalities in healthcare.

[. . .]

The cost of child care is a huge burden on American families. On average, they spend 10% of their income on it—almost twice as much as what Department of Health and Human Services considers affordable—and the percentage is far higher for low-income families.

The plan seeks to address that by providing universal pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds, which would amount to an investment of about $200 billion and save the average family $16,000 a year. Child care workers would earn at least $15 an hour.

[. . .]

A budget of $107 billion would be used to provide permanent resident status to qualifying immigrants. That includes providing a path to legalization for so-called Dreamers—or undocumented immigrants who entered the country as minors. The plan also calls for investments in more effective border patrol measures.

We can debate the merits of this type of spending in general, but when people think of “infrastructure,” they think of roads, bridges, etc. – not child care.

However, inside the over 2000 page bill is another provision that is not “infrastructure:”

On Saturday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s House quietly tucked an enforcement mechanism into their $3.5 trillion “reconciliation” bill, passed it out of the Budget Committee, and sent it to the House floor.

Buried on page 168 of the House Democrats’ 2,465-page mega bill is a tenfold increase in fines for employers that “willfully,” “repeatedly,” or even seriously violate a section of labor law that deals with hazards, death, or serious physical harm to their employees.

The increased fines on employers could run as high as $70,000 for serious infractions, and $700,000 for willful or repeated violations—almost three-quarters of a million dollars for each fine. If enacted into law, vax enforcement could bankrupt non-compliant companies even more quickly than the $14,000 OSHA fine anticipated under Biden’s announced mandate.

Whether you agree with being vaccinated or not, the question is whether companies should face such onerous fines for not holding people down on a table and jabbing them with a needle? Should people be told they cannot work because of concerns over the vaccine? (One concern being the effectiveness of the vaccine(s) themselves.)

The Legislation

The provision tucked in the House reconciliation budget bill (on page 168) that increases OSHA fines reads:


(a) OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH ACT OF 1970.—Section 17 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (29 U.S.C. 666) is amended—

(1) in subsection (a)—

(A) by striking ‘‘$70,000’’ and inserting ‘‘$700,000’’; and

(B) by striking ‘‘$5,000’’ and inserting ‘‘$50,000’’;

(2) in subsection (b), by striking ‘‘$7,000’’ and inserting ‘‘$70,000’’; and

(3) in subsection (d), by striking ‘‘$7,000’’ and inserting ‘‘$70,000’’

That provision would change existing law relating to OSHA’s enforcement fines, the very same section of law whose fines OSHA referenced in its June Covid-19 healthcare worker rule and is likely to use again to enforce its forthcoming vaccine compliance rules.

The Existing Law

29 U.S.C.§ 666 lays out OSHA enforcement fine levels. The 1970-enacted law reads:

29 U.S. Code § 666 – Civil and criminal penalties

(a) Willful or repeated violation Any employer who willfully or repeatedly violates the requirements of section 654 of this title, any standard, rule, or order promulgated pursuant to section 655 of this title, or regulations prescribed pursuant to this chapter may be assessed a civil penalty of not more than $70,000 for each violation, but not less than $5,000 for each willful violation

(b) Citation for serious violation Any employer who has received a citation for a serious violation of the requirements of section 654 of this title, of any standard, rule, or order promulgated pursuant to section 655 of this title, or of any regulations prescribed pursuant to this chapter, shall be assessed a civil penalty of up to $7,000 for each such violation [emphasis added].

Each year, OSHA adjusts these penalties for inflation, so for 2021, the fines are not actually capped at $70,000 and $7,000, but $136,532 and $13,653 per violation. If House Democrats get their way, by enacting the page 168 changes, those fines would increase to $700,000 for willful and repeated violations and $70,000 for serious violations.

Section 654, cross-referenced in the OSHA enforcement penalty code, outlines the law requiring workplaces to be “free from recognized hazards” causing harm or death:

29 U.S. Code § 654 – Duties of employers and employees

(a) Each employer—

(1) shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees;

(2) shall comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this chapter.

(b) Each employee shall comply with occupational safety and health standards and all rules, regulations, and orders issued pursuant to this chapter which are applicable to his own actions and conduct.

This is nuts.

The Biden administration is willing to fine businesses to the point of closure and bankruptcy.

In addition, one has to wonder why this rule only applies to companies with 100 or more people. Can’t smaller businesses have infected employees or those who are unvaccinated as well? What is the practical difference between 99 employees and 100 employees when it comes to transmission of COVID?

No matter what, no such rule and law change should be in a spending bill for infrastructure.

If Congress and the Administration wants to make a rule, then put it in a separate bill rather than sneaking around like a teenager that is late for curfew.

We do want to commend the Biden administration, and Joe Biden himself, for following masking and social distancing policies:

There is nothing like leading by example.

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