Government's standard response to allegations it isn't doing its job is to announce investigations will be conducted - by the government. Then there are pledges that the chips will fall where they may. Sometimes, taxpayer-funded agencies are fined, with the money paid out of - you guessed it - taxpayers' funds. Rarely do heads really roll through firings or prosecutions for criminal negligence.
What about situations in which failures by government regulators result in lost lives? Should not the standard formula be abandoned in favor of something more effective?
Both the West Virginia Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training and the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration have been accused of failing to adequately enforce safety laws at the Upper Big Branch Mine in Raleigh County. An explosion there killed 29 miners in 2010.
To its credit, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of West Virginia has been aggressive in its investigation of the tragedy - and in prosecuting coal company personnel whose actions contributed to the disaster.
But the MSHA review of alleged regulatory failures at Upper Big Branch has been an internal one. The state agency also plans an internal investigation.
Three separate investigations concluded safety rules were broken repeatedly at Upper Big Branch. Criticism has centered on the coal company and its personnel for failure to follow the rules - and for covering up misdeeds.
But part of the job of government inspectors is to detect such shenanigans. Why did that not happen at Upper Big Branch?
Just as important: Can West Virginians, including coal miners, have any faith in internal investigations of the regulatory agencies?
Once the state and federal agencies conclude their internal reviews, an independent investigation of the matter should be launched. If cooperation by the state and federal agencies is in question, West Virginia legislators and the U.S. Congress should mandate it.
Then, if negligence is uncovered, it should be punished as severely as the level of failures indicates.