Gov. Bruce Rauner’s former private equity firm co-owned Sterigenics. | AP Photo/John O’Connor, File

Anti-government voices go silent when pollution hits home

SHARE Anti-government voices go silent when pollution hits home
SHARE Anti-government voices go silent when pollution hits home

Where are all the anti-government Republicans in Willowbrook and DuPage County? Why aren’t they defending Sterigenics?

Sterigenics is a worldwide leader in the sterilization of medical equipment.

The problem is the company uses a cancer-causing chemical called ethylene oxide, and there are indications that emissions from the plant may be connected to higher-than-normal rates of cancer in Willowbrook and nearby Burr Ridge.


There have been public protests demanding a congressional investigation, angry citizens screaming that the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency should shut the place down and cries that local government leaders failed to protect citizens.

But I haven’t seen any anti-government people defending the free market system and the right of businessmen to operate without government interference.

Elections like the one on Tuesday almost always include a battle between the people who want the government to be involved in their lives (national health insurance) and those who scream that socialism will destroy America (Donald Trump).

Keep the government out of our lives, the conservative says. Don’t tax us. Let businessmen create jobs and make money. We don’t need big government.

And then something happens like a tornado or hurricane.

Send help, say people like U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, an anti-tax Republican, when a hurricane hit his home state of Texas.

It happens all the time. I understand it. And I don’t blame Cruz and the other Republicans for seeking government assistance in times of need.

The people in Willowbrook, whether they be Republican or Democrat, are entitled to know that the air they breathe is not contaminated. Their children deserve the protection of our government.

But if the government is underfunded, if the public doesn’t support the EPA and its regulations, if the laws are not strictly enforced, then bad things are going to happen to all of us.

We know that from experience. Manufacturers will make cars that blow up in fender benders. Babies will choke to death in cribs that strangle them. Drugs will be priced so high that the people who need them to live won’t be able to buy them.

Hey, that last one is happening right now. But people say they don’t want government to put price controls on the pharmaceutical industry, which spends millions of dollars to bribe our politicians.

It’s easy to take the anti-government position when your life isn’t on the line.

But if your child is an opioid addict and dying from an overdose, you want the paramedics and maybe even your school district to have available an injection of Narcan to save his life.

That’s government. It’s what we do to make life better for all of us.

Sterigenics claims they’re operating within the law. The company says it isn’t doing anything wrong and that it actually saves lives by making medical equipment safe.

But the people in Willowbrook and Burr Ridge want someone to guarantee their safety, and right now they feel betrayed. I don’t hear any conservatives telling them to sit down and shut up.

Elections these days always tend to pit “us” against “them.” There’s an implication that we can’t all be in this together.

But we are.

What we need, desperately, are public officials who make sure the government programs we fund are run efficiently and effectively. We need people who say, “the buck stops here” and I am the person who is going to make government work.

Self-driving cars are a great idea. But I think we all want our government to make sure they are safe before they are released on the streets. And I would like someone to make sure the auto insurance industry doesn’t make us pay for a manufacturer’s screw up.

Some people call that “socialism” to scare the public. I say give the little guy a little help and stop sticking it to him.


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