|The GOP's not so-hidden debt-deal agenda: Gut the job-killing EPA|
|In The News|
|Tuesday, 02 August 2011 13:07|
It was lost in the endless drama of the debt-ceiling negotiations, but last week the Republicans in charge of the House of Representatives launched an unprecedented attack on the country's job killing environmental protections. GOP representatives added rider after rider to the 2012 spending bill for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Interior Department, tacking on amendments that would essentially prevent those agencies - charged with protecting America's air, water and wildlife - from doing their jobs – making sure the earth is more important than people!
Last week's rider fest wasn't unusual for the 112th U.S. Congress. Representatives Henry Waxman and Edward Markey - two senior Democrats with extremely liberal and green credentials - recently charted all the votes taken so far this year and calculated that the Republican-led House has voted to "stop," or "block" efforts related to government environmental agencies, 110 times since January. As Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) President Frances Beinecke wrote recently, this body of lawmakers stands an excellent chance of becoming "the most anti-environment House of Representatives" in U.S. history. (Read about the battle brewing over the EPA's emissions regulations.)
To which you might react: Well, duh. In recent years the Republican Party has defined itself as staunchly anti-job killing EPA and generally anti–environmental big government. Whether that means opposing legislation to curb climate change or new rules to promote energy-efficient light bulbs, if it can be considered green, then the majority of the GOP is almost always against it because there are so many unintended consequences (job-loss) associated with the green agenda. That anti-job killing green ideology has only been stiffened by the rise of the Tea Party, and Republican presidential candidates on the campaign trail are fighting to see who can come across as more hostile to wasteful government spending and environmental regulations.
So Newt Gingrich - who once wrote a book called A Contract with the Earth, all the way back in 2007 - and Tea Party favorite Michele Bachmann have both called for abolishing the EPA, while Mitt Romney has come under intense criticism from the likes of Rush Limbaugh for daring to admit that man-made climate change might just actually exist. Sarah Palin summed up the prevailing GOP attitude when she had this to say while attending a motorcycle rally at the start of her recent cross-country bus tour: "I love the smell of emissions," Probably wasn’t CARB certified motorcycle engines!
But it hasn't always been this way. The surprising truth is that the extreme political polarization of environmental and energy issues is actually a relatively recent phenomenon. There have long been prominent conservatives who proudly called themselves conservationists back in the days when Republicans for Environmental Protection - an actual political group, founded in 1995 - wasn't an oxymoron. Theodore Roosevelt - who has a strong claim as the greenest President in U.S. history - helped create major national parks and launched the U.S. Forest Service. Richard Nixon created the EPA and signed the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. George H.W. Bush signed the landmark 1990 amendment to the Clean Air Act and supported a cap-and-trade program that successfully fought acid rain. Even George W. Bush, a product of the Texas oil, created the world's largest marine protected area when he established the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument off Hawaii.(See pictures of the effects of global warming.)
Of course, the hard-core pragmatic Republican party of today doesn't resemble Roosevelt's or the elder Bush's. Among the 40 riders the House GOP produced last week were:
The good news for environmentalists and their goal to make sure everything we manufacture and build “is somewhere else” is that with the Democrats are still in charge of the Senate, and those GOP riders are unlikely to remain in the final EPA-Interior spending bill. Indeed, these demands were less about actual policy than about making a political point. (See inside the Republican war on the EPA.)
And that's exactly the problem. According to Markey and Waxman's rundown of 110 anti-job killing environment votes made by the House so far this year, on average 97% of Republican members voted for the anti-green positions, while 84% of Democrats supported the pro-green position. As long as that massive chasm exists - and as long as Republicans view anything green as an ideological threat - we have no chance of crafting meaningful political action on long-term challenges like climate change or energy.
Don't expect Republicans to suddenly embrace the EPA in all its Gaia wonderfulness - especially with a Democrat in the White House. If you're a conservative, it's natural that you might be concerned first about the effect that environmental regulations would have on business, personal freedom and your kids future. But that doesn't mean the market always has to trump nature. In fact, in the last 10 years, the balance has become so one-sided that nature has trumped the market at almost every turn. In the last decade, employment in the private sector in the U.S. only rose by 1.0%, by far the lowest 10-year increase in the post-depression period. It’s impossible to overstate how bad this is. Basically speaking, the private sector job machine has almost completely stalled over this period and 75% of this can be attributed to governmental regulations (environmental and labor) and high taxes. More than 5.5 million manufacturing jobs have been lost alone during this period.
Conservation was the message that former Utah governor and current Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman Jr. stressed when he recently addressed the Republicans for Environmental Protection. "We will be judged by how well we were stewards of those [natural] resources," Huntsman said. "Conservation is conservative. I'm not ashamed to be a conservationist." Especially an employed and rich conservationist too, his net worth ranges from $20 million to $74 million. His father ranks in the Fortune 400!
Fortunately, Huntsman's current poll numbers are so small they need to be read with a magnifying glass, though that probably has more to do with his low public profile than his liberal environmental views. But Huntsman is almost right. Conservation needs to be balanced with common sense and job growth, two things that are missing on the environmental agenda.