by Clyde Rich
Guest Columnist
Former President, Democrats of Rossmoor

Reagan started making  tax cuts  for the wealthy and deregulation.  Bush expanded the tax cuts and appointed leaders who continued the attacks on regulation.  If tax cuts and deregulation were the answer to our current economic problems we would not be in the condition we face today.  Currently there are several different views on how to improve the economy and reduce the deficit:  Republicans argue for making cuts in spending.  Democrats argue for increasing revenues by taxing the wealthy and making the tax code more progressive.  A third view, proposed by progressive legislators, is to increase jobs by investing in rebuilding our deteriorating infrastructure and reviving our manufacturing industry – (“Make it in America”).  Corporations offer a fourth solution and that is to eliminate environmental protections affecting their operations.  Unfortunately, there is no one best solution that will solve the economic problems we face today.

If Corporations are successful in eliminating environmental protections we will surely face more serious problems in the future: depletion of natural resources, increased effects of climate change, lack of clean water and the air we breathe.  The unfettered pursuit of profit by big business, at the expense of the environment, will ultimately be more devastating and reduce the quality of life for everyone on planet earth. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is about to finalize new rules to curb pollution from coal fired power plants.  Mercury, smog, ozone, greenhouse gasses, water intake, and coal ash will all be more rigorously regulated.  Not surprising, right wing legislators and various industry groups claim that the new rules will result in higher electric charges and increase business operating costs.  Environmental groups say the new rules will bring sizeable health benefits.  So, who’s right?  The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) says industry groups overstate the cost they will incur.  In addition, the reports says the new regulations will result in saving $290 billion in health care costs compared to $2.8 billion in increased costs to businesses. 

A few days ago, Michelle Bachman while on the campaign trail, said if she becomes president “I guarantee you that the EPA will have the doors locked and the lights turned off”.    Could it be that this kind of knee jerk reaction is simply the result of wanting to continue to receive huge contributions to her campaign and that utilities and other corporations  want to continue to receive the tax breaks and other benefits provided by votes of Republican legislators in support of deregulation?

Republicans in Congress are trying to shut down the Environmental Protection Agency, repeal the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, and defund efforts by the Department of the Interior to protect the nation’s wildlife and natural treasures.  Elimination of the EPA will take us back to the day when smokestacks fouled the air, rivers were treated like open sewers, and chemical plants poisoned our communities. Extreme Republicans are putting corporate interest ahead of America’s most treasured natural resources which will increase the threat of illnesses from contaminated water and polluted air.

Koch Industries operates 57 chemical factories in the US.  They have spent millions on lobbyists and made huge donations to Republican politicians to avoid spending on the most basic safety precautions.  A Greenpeace report cites 680 safety violations at these plants  involving water, air, hazardous waste, pesticides and emergency planning and preparedness violations.

Most of the Republican presidential candidates have declared war on the EPA.  They claim that the economy is smothered by regulations to keep our air and water safe.  However, they offer no evidence of that; and recent profits of the big energy companies  show the lack of any suffering. Gov. Rick Perry of Texas shares Bachman’s  hatred of the EPA.  Like Bachman, Perry refuses to accept that global warming is real.  He thinks that the EPA regulations are killing jobs when the majority of Americans are worried about clean air and water pollution and hold a positive view of the EPA.

Earlier this month Obama backed off on a previous pledge to enact stricter rules on Bush-era ozone laws.  It is difficult to understand this decision and deeply disappointing to environmentalists and others.  Even the Center for American Progress, a leading Democratic think tank, issued a statement critical of his decision.  They called it a gift  to Big Oil’s wish list at the expense of children, seniors and the infirm.

Of all the reasons government exists, none is more important than keeping its citizens safe from terrorist’s attacks, Wall Street’s recklessness, and industrial poisoning of our air and water.

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