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Maximizing profits too often at odds with doing the right thing

| May 10, 2006 12:00 AM

To the Editor:

For decades the Republican Party has insisted that the country would be run best if it were run like a private corporation. All we needed were businessmen to show us how.

When Reagan became president he appointed the president of W.R. Grace & Co. to head up what became known as the Grace Commission, which was given the task of investigating how to make the U.S. government more like a corporation. The findings of the Grace Commission were used to guide policies and legislation designed by the Republican White House.

Grace had a great reputation as a corporation. They did well what corporations are designed to do: make money. Corporations are not expected to do what the government is expected to do: protect its citizens from various perils that threaten them harm.

W.R. Grace's behavior in Libby is a frightening example of why we should not put too much stock in advice that comes from a source that has only one overriding mission, and that is making money, not looking out for our well being. One can only speculate about the long-term impact of taking advice from the Grace Commission 20 years ago.

It is ironic that the same behavior of covering up the dangers of asbestos in Libby is similar to the tragedies unfolding among the firefighters and policemen who worked at Ground Zero after Sept. 11. The administration covered up the dangers of poisons in the air and now the men who bravely served there are dying.

Successful corporations like W.R. Grace were and are heroes to some even today. It would be prudent, however, to recognize that maximizing profits is often at odds with objective searching for the right thing to do for the citizens of a country.

Bob Stone

Polson