Category Archives: pollution

Department of No Surprises: From Charleston to Murrieta to Washington, D.C.

 

Murrieta protest 2

In July, 2014 protesters gathered to block DHS busses carrying Central American women and children in Murrieta, CA.  It was ugly, and unnecessary, and gave the town a dismal national reputation. [HuffPo]  Murrieta is in the 42nd Congressional District, with a 46.6% white population, 36.2% Hispanic,  5.1% African American, and 8.8% Asian American. The district has been consistently Republican since 2003.  So, why review this information today?  Because the Representative from this California district, Ken Calvert, has raised the bloody flag in the halls of Congress.

“The amendment to the House’s Interior and Environment spending bill would allow for the display of Confederate flags at national cemeteries managed by the National Park Service (NPS) even though members voted to ban the practice earlier this week. It would counteract another amendment to the same bill blocking the service from selling Confederate flag memorabilia in gift shops in the future. 

Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) offered the amendment in the closing minutes of floor debate on the spending bill Wednesday night. He made only a token statement in support of the amendment before setting up a roll call vote on it for Thursday.” [The Hill

Even though Representative Calvert’s amendment hit the floor during the waning hours of the Congressional day, it drew fire overnight when House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) commented:

Hoyer called the amendment, introduced by Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) Wednesday night on a spending bill, “appalling.” He challenged House Republicans to vote against it and preserve amendments banning Confederate flag sales at national parks and displays at national cemeteries.

“That racist, divisive flag of slavery, segregation, and secession is not an appropriate symbol to sell or fly in our national parks and cemeteries run by the National Park Service,” Hoyer said in a statement early Thursday. [The Hill]

Representative Hoyer wasn’t the only member of Congress appalled by the  Calvert amendment.  Minnesota Rep. Betty McCollum retorted: “After the murder of nine black parishioners, I never thought that the U.S. House of Representatives would join those who would want to see this flag flown by passing an amendment to ensure” the continued flying of the Confederate flag, McCollum said.” [Roll Call]

Thus evaporated any remaining Democratic support for an otherwise unlikeable Department of Interior appropriations bill.  Representative McCollum wasn’t alone; several other Democratic party Representatives took to the floor to lambaste the idea of voting on the Calvert amendment today, July 9, 2015. [The Hill]

Representative Calvert offered an explanation for his amendment, saying he had been asked by Representatives from southern states to introduce it, and there were Republican members of the House who would not support the Interior Department’s appropriation bill be cause of earlier language banning the CSA battle flag in grounds under DoI administration. [The Hill]

And now we come to the totally predictable part of the story – encapsulated by the remarks of Speaker John Boehner (R-OH):

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters the spending bill had been pulled to avoid the issue from becoming a “political football.” “That bill is going to sit in abeyance until we come to some resolution,” he said.” [The Hill]

This, from the Speaker who said only days ago in the immediate aftermath of the Charleston Church massacre, that Congress would be “the adults in the room.”

So, we have yet another major piece of legislation sitting “in abeyance” while the House Republicans engage in their internecine battles over whether or not to allow the pennon of slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, and racism to flap on federal grounds.  Additionally, it truly is remarkable that yet again House Republicans have slipped their own poison pill into what was one of their own bills.

This seems less like gridlock between two adversarial parties, and more like what happens when a single party with a majority in Congress cannot control its own caucus.  The Democrats should be perfectly pleased that an appropriations bill which stripped the EPA of essential authority to regulate clean air and clean water is “in abeyance.”  Republicans who wanted to dismantle the EPA’s authority to control pollution may be wondering how and why a California Representative could so easily thwart their plans with a truly insensitive and racially charged amendment on behalf of his southern brethren.

We may have to look no further than the angry faces of the anti-immigrant protesters in his district – Welcome Back to Murrieta?

Comments Off on Department of No Surprises: From Charleston to Murrieta to Washington, D.C.

Filed under anti-immigration, Appropriations, conservatism, ecology, House of Representatives, Immigration, Interior Department, pollution, racism, Republicans

Amodei and Heck Do It Again!

Pollution air In case you missed it —  amidst all the publicity about the pipeline vote – the House of Representatives has again demonstrated its proclivity to promote the interests of corporate  exploiters and polluters (read — Koch Brothers):

“The House voted 229-191 to pass H.R. 1422, which would change the rules for appointing members to the Science Advisory Board (SAB), a group that gives scientific advice to the EPA Administrator. Also called the Science Advisory Board Reform Act, the bill would make it easier for scientists with financial ties to corporations to serve on the SAB, prohibit independent scientists from talking about their own research on the board, and make it more difficult for scientists who have applied for grants from the EPA to join the board.” [TP]

How nice for the Koch Brothers and the multi-national corporations which are annoyed by having to discuss such matters as global climate change, air pollution, and other topics related to whether or not our grandchildren will inherit a viable planet.

So, what did Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2) do for the grandchildren?  He voted in favor of the Ignore The Science Bill.  Representatives Heck (R-NV3) and Amodei voted in favor of the bill on Roll Call 525.   Representatives Horsford (D-NV4) and Titus (D-NV1) thought enough of the kidlets to vote against this sop to multinational corporations. But wait! There’s more.

The House also passed H.R. 4795 – yet another pro-pollution bill:

“The Clean Air Act requires major new or expanding sources of air pollution to obtain permits with pollution limits before the facilities start construction.  These preconstruction permits ensure that a new or expanded facility will not increase local air pollution to levels that violate national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS), which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets for six principal air pollutants.  When EPA updates each air quality standard to reflect the latest science, permit applicants have to meet the new, more protective standard and show their emissions will not harm public health.

H.R. 4795, introduced by Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), creates a loophole in this process.  The bill establishes imprecise procedural requirements for EPA to follow after setting a new air quality standard.  If EPA does not meet those requirements, then a new or expanding facility can apply for a preconstruction permit based on the old air quality standard, which is not adequate to protect public health.  In effect, this bill could give new sources of pollution “amnesty” from new science-based air quality standards.”  [DEC]

Got that?  If Spew & Blow Corp. doesn’t like the new air quality standards, it can use the Scalise Loophole to get around them.  How convenient.  And what did our Representatives do?  The two Republicans (Heck and Amodei) voted for the “Promoting New Manufacturing Act” – the title should really have been the “Promoting More Pollution Act of 2014.”   Horsford and Titus both voted against this travesty of a bill.

Could we have any better demonstration of how closely Congressional Republicans, including our Congressional Republicans, are tied to the Koch Brothers?

2 Comments

Filed under Amodei, ecology, Nevada politics, pollution

Yes, West Virginia, there is a Grinch

Freedom IndustriesAs thousands of West Virginia residents get first hand experience in what it’s like to live in a region without potable water, House Speaker John Boehner’s knee jerk reaction is, “We have enough regulations.” [HuffPo]

The extension of his remarks is instructive:

“The issue is this: We have enough regulations on the books. And what the administration ought to be doing is actually doing their jobs,” Boehner said at a press conference. “Why wasn’t this plant inspected since 1991?”

“I am entirely confident that there are ample regulations already on the books to protect the health and safety of the American people,” he added. “Somebody ought to be held accountable here. What we try to do is look at those regulations that we think are cumbersome, are over the top, and that are costing the economy jobs. That’s where our focus continues to be.”  [HuffPo]

There are three questionable assertions included in the Speaker’s remarks.  First, do we have a sufficiently robust regulatory regime in place to help prevent future chemical spills of the type created by Freedom Industries?  Secondly, if the Freedom Industries facility was not inspected was this a function of (a) inadequate implementation of existing regulations; or, (b) because the plant was not deemed to be included in those facilities which should be inspected?  Third, by what standards are regulations considered to be “cumbersome, over the top, job killers?”

Question One

First, do we have a sufficiently robust regulatory regime in place to help prevent future chemical spills of the type created by Freedom Industries?

The Environmental Protection Agency, often a target for conservatives some of whom have advocated for its abolition, publishes a brochure outlining its inspection authority (pdf).  Under the terms of the TSCA (Toxic Substance Control Act) the EPA  may “Enter and inspect any premises at which chemicals are manufactured, processed, stored or held, and enter and inspect any means used to transport chemicals, to inspect records, files, processes or controls to determine compliance with TSCA. 15 U.S.C.A.§2610(a)–(b)

The phrase “manufactured, processed, stored, or held” appears to indicate that the facility in West Virginia operated by Freedom Industries would fall in the category of those which should be regularly inspected by the EPA for compliance.   However, where there are laws there are often loopholes and the West Virginia incident appears to have been such a case:

“I think the loophole, if you will, that this facility fell into is because it was not a hazardous material, it flew under the radar,” said Secretary Randy Huffman, head of the state Department of Environmental Protection. This isn’t the only potential loophole.  The DEP never inspected the facility because the company didn’t produce any chemicals or have any legal emissions.”  [PPG]

What we may have in this instance is a chemical which was perfectly capable of contaminating drinking water, and of creating health and safety hazards, but which did not fall under the provisions of the TSCA?  And, further if we require inspections only if there is manufacturing going on, or if there are emissions which pose an issue of air or water quality standards, then the regulations didn’t extend far enough to require the inspection of a ‘storage’ facility such as the one run by Freedom Industries.  Senator Joe Manchin (D-WVA) offers his proposal:

“… West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D) said he has a plan to make his colleagues pay attention: a renewed push for legislation that would require more disclosure and testing for chemicals. The current federal law, known as the Toxic Substances Control Act, or TSCA, has been in place since 1976 and requires very little public disclosure about the safety of chemicals. As a result, there are tens of thousands of chemicals like the one at the heart of the West Virginia disaster that are in use, even though there is scant data available about their hazards.”  [HuffPo]

The West Virginia Senator’s proposal encompasses two questions.  Are the provisions of the TSCA sufficiently broad to embrace the control of chemicals which while not lethally toxic are known to be hazardous?  And secondly, should more facilities (manufacturing, storage, and transport) be subject to inspection?

If Senator Manchin is referring to S. 1009, then his support could give new impetus to the efforts toward improving public information about, and regulatory inspection of, those plants which handle hazardous chemicals.

Question Two

Secondly, if the Freedom Industries facility was not inspected was this a function of (a) inadequate implementation of existing regulations; or, (b) because the plant was not deemed to be included in those facilities which should be inspected?

If the chemical involved in the West Virginia drinking water contamination did not appear on the current list of toxic substances, then regulation and enforcement would be a haphazard thing.   The plant may not have been inspected since 1991 because existing regulations permitted it to slip into a loophole in which while the chemical was hazardous it was not necessarily lethal or was not included in a listing of dangerous substances.   In short, the “existing regulations” were inadequate.

Question Three

Third, by what standards are regulations considered to be “cumbersome, over the top, job killers?”

The phrasing isn’t a specific objection to S. 1009, but a shorthand expression for Republican opposition to any restrictions of corporate operations.  The phrase has been applied to statutes requiring compliance with corporate accounting standards, compelling inspections of food manufacturing and processing, and laws demanding that banks treat their customers fairly and honestly.   In short, Republicans have been advocates of de-regulation across the board.

Thus, any proposal from any quarter which might impinge — even ever so slightly — on corporate management is declared “cumbersome,” or “burdensome,” or a “job killer.”  No particular form or quantity of substantiation is required to support the assertion.

A Fourth Question

Is the enactment of S. 1009 an improvement on the situation?  Ironically, one of the panelists called to testify before the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works concerning this bill last July 31, 2013* was the chief of the West Virginia emergency response division of their Department of Environmental Protections.

H. Michael Dorsey’s testimony (pdf) made two major points which deserve more consideration.  His first comments highlighted the fact that the TSCA was outdated and in great need of upgrading and updating.  He also commented that there were states which had inserted language into their environmental protection laws directing that the state law may be no more stringent than the federal statutes.  However,  Mr. Dorsey’s testimony also caught the other side of this issue, as noted by Daniel Rosenberg’s testimony on behalf of the NDRC. (pdf)

Rosenberg put a spotlight on one of the crucial weaknesses of S. 1009, the usurpation of state efforts to protect citizens from toxic and hazardous chemicals, the usurpation of the capacity of the states to control environmental hazards:

“The CSIA imposes limits on the ability of States to protect their citizens limits that are in critical ways worse than current law. S. 1009 blocks states from taking new action on a chemical as soon as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has listed the substance as a “high priority” and scheduled an assessment. This is especially damaging because years could elapse between the time EPA schedules an assessment and the time it conducts the assessment and decides whether to regulate.”

“Numerous chemicals deemed “high priority” by EPA could be languishing on the schedule, which as noted above, would be unenforceable. The waiver provision of the bill is too narrow and onerous to mitigate the fundamental flaws in the preemption section of the bill. The bill also would preempt existing state laws on high priority chemicals, once EPA has adopted a
restriction on the substance, even if the State provision may be broader in scope and more protective of the public but not directly in conflict with the federal provision.”

Dorsey’s testimony referred to states which lack laboratory, staff and other necessities required to property test, analyze, and evaluate potentially hazardous chemicals, indicating that it would be preferable to have the Feds do it.   Rosenberg’s testimony highlights what happens when the task is transferred to the federal level leaving states in limbo as the tests and reports are completed, and contends that the result may very well be that the federal activities could result in standards less stringent than those of the states.  In other words, the bill might propel environment standards in reverse.

What Do We Want?

The obvious answer is that we want safe drinking water, and breathable air.  We’d prefer not to have contaminants in our coffee cups, washing machines, dish washers, and sinks.   This requires some differentiation, and we enter into the sticky realm of cost-benefit analysis: Are we getting the results we desire in one category at a price we are willing to pay in another?

Even within this framework there are further differentiations to make.  For example, we know that lead and mercury are toxic substances, potentially lethal, always harmful.  Are we willing to absorb the production costs of paint which does not contain lead? And, who’s “we?”  Should the manufacturers of a product absorb the costs of keeping their merchandise free of contaminants in order to keep their prices “competitive?” Or, should the consumers be required to select products free of contaminants in which the costs are passed along to them?

The essential problem with the cost-benefit format is that no matter how artfully presented in mathematical terms, both “cost” and “benefit” are subjective words.   “Cost” is informed by marketplace selections, projected revenues, and estimated expenses.  What is, or is not, acceptable is related to corporate policies which may have little to do with environmental benefits — stock prices, bond yields, compensation for management and workers.  We can objectively identify if a corporation is profitable; we cannot unilaterally announce that a corporation is profitable enough; that’s a subjective judgment.

“Benefits” may be informed by such concepts as standards for emissions or contaminants,  measurements along a scale from dangerous to safe.  Do we accrue benefits when the emissions are reduced to zero?  Or, is 50 ppb sufficient to insure safety?  How do we measure those benefits?  Do we measure only the emission or contaminants and evaluate them based on scientific  standards?  Or, do we create measurements predicated on human health reports? Fewer reports of asthma? Lead poisoning?  We are willing to put up with 10 ppb of arsenic in our water supplies, assuming some occurs naturally, but are we ready to agree to having any dangerous forms of mercury in our food sources?  Again, the benefit side of the equation is fraught with differentiations requiring human judgment.

There is a Grinch

In view of the problems associated with the manufacturing, storage, transport, and use of chemicals in our economy, and in light of the insistence of the cost-benefit format for evaluating our efforts to mitigate contamination,  we’ve created our own Grinch.  He’s not out to hold Whoville hostage, he is Whoville — he wants the cheapest price, the lowest cost, and the most competitive products, but he also wants to be as safe as possible.   He wants local control, but national standards; national standards but not ones which reduce local control.   S. 1009 is therefore not the answer.  What’s probably necessary is a better informed, less contentious, national conversation about what we want to experience in our physical and economic environments and how we should go about getting it.

{*More testimony can be located here, in PDF form}

Additional References and Resources: CRS Summary S. 1009, Congressional Research Service;  Hart Hodges, “Falling Prices: Cost of Compliance,” EPI (pdf); Brookings Institution, “Are Pollution Controls Worth Their Cost?” July 19, 2013.  EPA, Chemical Data Reporting; US Senate, Committee on Environment and Public Works, hearing on addressing toxic chemical risks, July 31, 2013.  EWG, Opposition to Senate Chemicals Bill, July 12, 2013.  Andrew Cochran, “A Chemical Bill Everyone Should Oppose,” Legal Examiner, June 6, 2013.

Comments Off on Yes, West Virginia, there is a Grinch

Filed under ecology, Economy, EPA, Politics, pollution

Amodei’s Magical List

AmodeiRepresentative Mark Amodei (R-NV2), ever faithful to his corporate masters, and ever ready to follow the lead of that (not-quite-so) compassionate leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), would have us believe the 112th Congress passed “27 bipartisan jobs bills” [Amodei] and more in the 113th, yielding some 40 “jobs bills.”   These are sadly jammed in that Upper Chamber of Horrors, a Democratically controlled Senate — well, maybe not too sad. Let’s dig deeper into Representative Amodei’s sequaceous sycophancy.

Representative Cantor helpfully provides a web site to list all these wonderful measures intended to “empower” small business owners from sea to shining sea.  Uh, not quite.

There is a huge chunk of House passed measures which is nothing more than a further gallop down the  DEREGULATION Trail.   That led to such wonderful results with regard to the American financial sector as of 2008 — we should want more of it?  Let’s take a look at a few bits of legislation on the Amodei/Cantor list:

H.Res. 72 calls for standing committees of the Congress to review every past, present, and proposed regulation — “That each standing committee designated in section 3 of this resolution shall inventory and review existing, pending, and proposed regulations, orders, and other administrative actions or procedures by agencies of the Federal Government within such committee’s jurisdiction.”    If you believe that this is supposed to alleviate the “burden” on small garage owners, I have some real estate for you…. This is about bringing succor to the international energy giants who are annoyed by environmental regulations, about comfort for the Wall Street Wizards who don’t want enforcement of the provisions of the Dodd Frank Act, especially the part wherein the big banks have to conform to some prohibitions against truly egregious behavior.  It’s also about further confounding efforts to enforce the provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, passed in the wake of the Enron Debacle, governing the actions of corporate management.   This passed the House, but as a House resolution the Senate doesn’t deal with it.

H.R. 874 “Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act,”  actually only reduces some very particular regulations.  “Amends the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (commonly known as the Clean Water Act [CWA]) to prohibit the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or a state from requiring a permit under the CWA for a discharge from a point source into navigable waters of a pesticide authorized for sale, distribution, or use under FIFRA, or the residue of such a pesticide, resulting from the application of such pesticide.

In short, neither the EPA nor the environmental authorities in any state can require a permit for discharging insecticides, fungicides, or rat poisons… or any chemical covered by the Clean Water Act… into our waters.  So, if I decide to dump &%#@! into the local river or creek, I don’t have to get a permit — what could possibly go wrong?

H.R. 2018:  Elegantly titled as the “Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011”  isn’t exactly cooperative, in fact it’s the reverse of the federal system.  Here’s a bit from this legislation; which effectively places environmental regulations in state hands — some states will be cooperative, and as we can well imaging some states will be delighted to exploit and pollute to their heart’s content – “(1) promulgating a revised or new water quality standard for a pollutant when the Administrator has approved a state water quality standard for such pollutant unless the state concurs with the Administrator’s determination that the revised or new standard is necessary to meet the requirements of such Act; (2) taking action to supersede a state’s determination that a discharge will comply with effluent limitations, water quality standards, controls on the discharge of pollutants, and toxic and pretreatment effluent standards under such Act;….”   In short, if any state doesn’t want to follow the Clean Water Act rules, it doesn’t have to.  How cooperative! (not)

H.R. 1315, happily titled the “Consumer Financial Protection Safety and Soundness Improvement Act of 2011” is really simple:

“(Sec. 102) Amends the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act to authorize the Chairperson of the Financial Stability Oversight Council to issue a stay of, or set aside, any regulation issued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) upon the affirmative vote of the majority (currently, two-thirds) of Council members, excluding the Chair of the Commission of the CFPB (as provided for in this Act).”

This is a “jobs” bill?  What it obviously does is gut the authority of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to prevent payday lenders from gouging their victims, to restrain some of the most egregious mortgage marketing practices known to man from devastating American families, and halt the sale of highly dubious financial products  cheating American workers and their families.   The only “jobs” saved or created by this bill are those for the less desirable elements in the financial sector.   Are these the ‘jobs’ Representative Amodei is anxious to save?

H.R. 2587, “Protecting Jobs From Government Interference Act,” is a beauty, at least in the eyes of the right wing corporate perspective of Freedomworks.  “…the bill would prohibit the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) from ordering any employer to close, relocate or transfer employment under any circumstance. The Protecting Jobs from Government Interference Act would help ensure that the government agency does not over step their bounds by dictating decisions made by private sector companies. ” [Fdwks] This isn’t about “all jobs” it’s about Boeing jobs, Boeing moving jobs to a right to work state, Boeing trying to cut labor costs.  And, there IS another explanation for H.R. 2587:

“H.R. 2587 would remove the only meaningful remedy available to workers if a company illegally moves operations or eliminates work because workers engaged in protected activities such as organizing a union. An employer can outsource for any reason, except for an unlawful reason. Retaliating against workers for exercising their rights under the National Labor Relations Act is one unlawful reason.” [NCL]

Once again, this bill isn’t about “job creation,” it’s quite simply union busting. Little wonder old Freedomworks was so enthusiastic.   The House tried another NLRB gutting, labor bashing, anti-union measure, H.R. 3094, which is also stuck in the Senate because union bashing, and the eliminating the protections of the NLRB aren’t so popular in that body.

Meanwhile back at the Pollution Party, H.R.2273 — the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act, “H.R. 2773 eliminates EPA’s authority under the Resource Conservation and Recovery (RCRA) Act to set minimum federal standards to ensure the safe disposal of coal combustion residuals (coal ash).  Instead, the bill allows states to establish their own programs without requiring them to meet any standard of protection for public health, public safety, or the environment. ” [DemE/C]

There are reasons people get nervous about the dumping of coal ash in close proximity to their homes and businesses:

“Coal ash pollution contains high levels of toxic heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, selenium, and hexavalent chromium. The public health hazards and environmental threats to nearby communities from unsafe coal ash dumping have been known for many years, including increased risk of cancer, learning disabilities, neurological disorders, birth defects, reproductive failure, asthma, and other illnesses.” [SCOrg]

How lovely, this isn’t a ‘jobs bills’ it’s a death warrant.

However, the crowning jewel in the deregulation diadem was the not-so-job-creating H.R. 10, the REINS Act.

“Requires a joint resolution of approval of major rules to be enacted before such rules may take effect (currently, major rules take effect unless a joint resolution disapproving them is enacted). Provides that if a joint resolution of approval is not enacted by the end of 70 session days or legislative days, as applicable, after the agency proposing the rule submits its report on such rule to Congress, the major rule shall be deemed not to be approved and shall not take effect. Permits a major rule to take effect for one 90-calendar day period without such approval if the President determines it is necessary because of an imminent threat to health or safety or other emergency, for the enforcement of criminal laws, for national security, or to implement an international trade agreement.”

We could say all this in one sentence — no one from the President to any executive, or quasi-judicial regulatory agency — can promulgate a rule, any rule, without Congressional approval.   Herein we have the Ultimate Deregulation Act.   No more interference from the FDA about marketing drugs, no more interference from the Consumer Product Safety Commission about flammable infant pajamas, no more interference from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau with unscrupulous pay day lenders…

These examples from the Republican list of “jobs bills” have little or nothing to do with actual jobs, instead they have everything to do with further deregulation — deregulation of polluters, deregulation of bankers, deregulation of the financial sector.

Somehow, we are encouraged by the Republicans in Congress to believe that unfettered corporate activities are necessary to “create jobs.”   It is, by their lights, acceptable to recreate the conditions which caused the 1948 Donora, Pennsylvania smog disaster, or the day in June 1969 when the Cuyahoga River caught fire in Cleveland, Ohio.  Unfettered capitalism requires, by GOP reasoning, we accept the fate of Times Beach, Missouri, evacuated in 1983 because of dioxin pollution.

JOBS! will be created if we allow a replication of the Enron Debacle? The collapse of Lehman Brothers? The Financial Crisis of 2007-2008?

Recession job lossWhat deregulation (especially in the financial sector) creates are Bubbles.  Unrestrained by any prohibitions on their reckless enthusiasm or their unalloyed greed, financialism enhanced by deregulation eventually spawns disaster.   The Republicans in the House of Representatives have evidently confused the needs of Main Street with the desires of Wall Street.  The legislation they tout as Job Creating doesn’t do anything for the average Main Street enterprise, but seeks to do everything for even  the most modest Wall Street hedge fund.   The graph above illustrates the Bubble in the housing sector — during which all manner of jobs appeared in order to feed the demand from Wall Street for ever more mortgages to package and repackage into ever more complex and devious financial products.  When the Bubble burst, jobs were LOST, many still vacant, most not yet replaced five years later.

Meanwhile, the American Jobs Act, is stalled in the House of Representatives, a bill which would create 1.9 million jobs [Moody’s] and would add about 1.5% to our GDP. [WSJ]

Comments Off on Amodei’s Magical List

Filed under ecology, Politics, pollution

Things that could get me to toss confetti in 2013

ConfettiThere are things that could get me to toss confetti for 2013.   Not many, mind you, which would justify the consequent vacuuming, but a goodly handful.

#1. The Senate of the United States of America does something constructive with the FILIBUSTER rule.   The original rule was intended to prevent the willful trampling of minority points of view, but the abuse of the rule is now part of the clichéd “Washington Gridlock.”  There is a delicate balance between Majority Rule and Minority Rights, but Obstruction for its own sake is not a laudable occupation.

#2. The Republicans in the House of Representatives eschew the  Hastert Rule , under which a majority of the majority party caucus must agree to the passage of a bill before a vote can be taken on the House floor.  This might have been a lovely idea if the current majority party caucus weren’t the replication of that other cliché– a wheelbarrow load of frogs.  Governance requires compromise, and compromise demands the admission that we don’t always get everything we want.  Ideological posturing is not a substitute for principled discourse.

#3.  Someone in a position to do something about it finally figures out that arguments over raising the debt ceiling are academic at best and consummately silly at worst — rather like announcing that because I overspent my budget for this holiday season I’m going to chop up my credit cards and not pay the bills.  Aside from being the most fiscally irresponsible action imaginable, it’s also a manifestation of the idea that the full faith and credit of the United States is some kind of bargaining chip in ideological squabbling.

#4. The National Rifle Association (aka No Rational Argument) stops pretending to care about the right of our citizens to keep and bear arms, and honestly announces that its ultimate intention is to promote the sale of as many firearms as its manufacturing donors can create.  After that, it should be far easier to discuss comprehensive background checks, closing the gun show loophole, and banning military style assault weapons.

#5. More people, perhaps even more people in the national media, stop referring to “The” government and start calling it what it is — OUR government.   “The” government calls to mind the institution which cracks down on Moonshiners, or enforces school integration, or ignores calls to make Jefferson Davis’s birthday a national holiday.  “The” government didn’t decide to integrate public schools — “our” government did. “The” government didn’t decide to enact regulations to prevent air and water pollution — “our” government did.  And, “The” government didn’t create the Food Stamp (SNAP) program — “our” government did that.  And so it goes.  Continual references to “The” government is an unfortunate holdover from the Reaganesque caricature of government designed to promote the financial health of the economic elite by appealing to the discontent with those laws “our” government enacted to promote OUR general welfare.

#6. Our representatives on Capitol Hill learn to say “____ isn’t the end of the world as we know it.”  I could do with a great deal less hysterical hyperbole.  “This is the Largest Tax Increase In The History of the Universe!”  Probably not.  “This is the worst violation of human rights ever!” Probably not that either.  “This will create the worst calamity known to man.” Probably not.  “This will destroy our ____.”  Again, probably not.  Excuse me while I chuckle at the pomposity of this meaningless prognostication.

#7.  Journalists who seek to inform me via the television set prove to be (1) knowledgeable about the subject under discussion, and (2) include fact checking as part of the “context” of which they speak so often.  If a statement made by a politician is factually inaccurate, they will tell me; and I hope they’ll be able to offer a correction.  I really don’t care if they are correcting the record in the wake of Left Wing Larry or Right Wing Richard’s pontification.  The object of the exercise should be to impart accurate information so far as it can be known — I can get my “entertainment” elsewhere.  Bluntly, the “he said, she said, and then he said” reactions from professional chatterati or elected representatives is less entertaining than a good professional wrestling match, which at least has the grace to admit it’s a scripted farce.

#8. Somebody finally declares the Culture Wars over and done with.  Our contemporary version appears to incorporate a toxic dose of good old fashioned misogyny.  Women make up about 51% of our population and telling them they cannot have an abortion (even in the cases of an ectopic pregnancy or as the result of a rape) is paternalistic to the core.  Worse still would be telling them that their employer can decide if their health insurance plan covers contraceptive medication.

#9.  On a related note, it really doesn’t do to blame God for everything.  I’d cheer the week that some blowhards weren’t showcased in the media for pronouncing God’s Wrath for … whatever.  Hurricane Katrina — God’s wrath for a Gay Pride gathering? Really?  God’s wrath because we don’t pray hard enough?  That certainly doesn’t explain the attack on congregants in the Knoxville Unitarian church.  God’s Wrath because we don’t have organized  prayer in schools? Huh?  No one at Columbine High School, Platte County High School, Northern Illinois University, Virginia Tech University, or Sandy Hook Elementary knew how to pray and practiced it regularly? Spare me the Westboro Wannabes who “know” the mind of God better than a six year old child.

#10.  The confetti will fly when we begin to have a serious discussion about global climate change without having to incorporate the phony “science” offered up by the fossil fuel industry.  No, there isn’t a “controversy” here. And, no reputable science deflects our responsibility as human beings for the contamination of which we are clearly capable.

Speaking of the Almighty, there’s an old story about the man caught in a flood which seems appropriate at the moment.  “Why, he cried out to God, am a trapped in these flood waters?”  The Almighty, sorely tired of listening to the wailing, said, “I sent you warnings.” “When?”  “When?” responded the Deity. “When indeed.” “I sent you warnings on the radio. You ignored me. I sent you warnings in television broadcasts, and you ignored me. I even sent a deputy sheriff to personally advise you to evacuate. And, you ignored him too.”  ….

We’ve been visited with major named storms, watched ice caps diminish, seen glaciers disappear… and all together too many people are ignoring the warnings.

Comments Off on Things that could get me to toss confetti in 2013

Filed under abortion, conservatism, ecology, energy policy, family issues, Federal budget, filibuster, Filibusters, Global warming, Gun Issues, Health Care, national debt, pollution, public health, racism, religion, VA Tech, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights

I Knew There Was A Reason: The Big N-FIBs

I did have a reason to never join either the Chamber of Commerce or the National Federation of Independent Business, because at the moment N-FIB is a very accurate acronym.  The NFIB has a radio spot which makes three unfounded assertions, presenting them as “facts.”  The N-FIB would also like us to know that they support members of  Congress like Senator Heller and Representative Heck (R-NV3) because they support “job creators.” [NFIB]

N-FIB: We should all support the GOP because, according to N-FIB, the Stimulus (the one under the Obama Administration) was a failure and didn’t create jobs.

FACT:  The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was successful at saving and creating jobs in the U.S. economy, and there are at least three credible estimates demonstrating the fact.

Those who prefer their information in graph form, should find this illuminating:

N-FIB:  The Affordable Care Act hurts small businesses.

FACT:  The N-FIBbers must have missed a few parts of the Affordable Care Act, like if you have up to 25 employees, pay average annual wages below $50,000, and provide health insurance, you may qualify for a small business tax credit of up to 35% (up to 25% for non-profits) to offset the cost of your insurance. This will bring down the cost of providing insurance.

And this: “Under the health care law, employer-based plans that provide health insurance to retirees ages 55-64 can now get financial help through the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program. This program is designed to lower the cost of premiums for all employees and reduce employer health costs.”

And this: “Starting in 2014, the small business tax credit goes up to 50% (up to 35% for non-profits) for qualifying businesses. This will make the cost of providing insurance even lower.”

And this: “In 2014, small businesses with generally fewer than 100 employees can shop in an Affordable Insurance Exchange, which gives you power similar to what large businesses have to get better choices and lower prices. An Exchange is a new marketplace where individuals and small businesses can buy affordable health benefit plans.”

And this: “Employers with fewer than 50 employees are exempt from new employer responsibility policies. They don’t have to pay an assessment if their employees get tax credits through an Exchange.”  [HHS]

N-FIB: The Obama Administration impedes businesses with burdensome regulations.

FACT:  “Obama’s White House approved 613 federal rules during the first 33 months of his term, 4.7 percent fewer than the 643 cleared by President George W. Bush’s administration in the same time frame, according to an Office of Management and Budget statistical database reviewed by Bloomberg.”  October 25, 2011  [Bloomberg News]  How about 2012?

So far, Obama has actually finalized fewer regulations than either Clinton or Bush at the same point in their terms. A wave of new final regulation is now slated to take effect in 2013. But some of them will be rolled out regardless of who’s in office, due to Obama-passed legislation that’s already in motion.” [WaPo]

If we drill down to specifics we find that there are two categories of rules the Republicans dislike enough to warrant attaching their “job killing” label — (a) Clean Air and Clean Water regulations, and (b) financial sector reform.

Republicans are particularly opposed to the provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (Bush Administration) enacted in the wake of the Enron Debacle to prevent further corporate frauds and shenanigans.  They are opposed to the enforcement of the Dodd-Frank Act, Senator Heller would like to see the bill restraining Casino Capitalism repealed even though only about 31% of the provisions have been implemented.

Those believing that a return to the Casino Capitalism of Enron, Lehman Brothers, the Housing Bubble, and the consequent collapse of investment banking in the United States in 2008 is desirable should definitely vote for Republicans like Representative Heck and Senator Heller.

Those who believe that some common sense restraint is in order to prevent the Wall Street Casino from re-opening to create the next artificial bubble out of “an excess of enthusiasm” — and who are mindful of what happened to the financial sector beginning in 2007 — will probably find the Democratic Party position more sustainable.

The exploiters and polluters don’t care for regulations on emissions and dumping.   It would certainly help the corporate bottom line to avoid paying for emission control devices, and to be able to dump coal ash anywhere that might be convenient.

However, those who prefer to drink clean water and breathe clean air should look carefully at what the Republicans are proposing.  Those who like hunting or fishing in unpolluted surroundings will find the Democratic Party positions more amenable to their interests.

Suggesting that mileage standards for automobiles should be clawed back makes absolutely no sense at all.  American and global vehicle manufacturers are touting their fuel-saving products.   The 2013 Dodge Dart advertises its 41 mpg capability [AutoBlog] Nissan is planning on building its Leaf in American plants,  Subaru wants to launch more STI models, Mazda plans a 2014 Mazda6 model mid-size sedan with better fuel mileage. [TCCGeneral Motors is pleased tell its customers that “Our engineers are reinventing the automobile, developing advanced technologies that lead to improved fuel economy, less emissions and a reduced dependence on petroleum.”   Among GM’s goals are the development of 12 vehicles having at least 30 mpg capability, the development of two mode hybrids, further development of fuel cell technology, and the expansion of its Opel Ampera and Chevrolet Volt models.

The ultimate irony may be that while the Republicans want to roll back fuel standards, the automobile manufacturers are hiring people to work on new models with fuel efficiency capability higher than the proposed standards.

At some point a small business owner would have to ask — What is achieved by “unburdening” the oil companies if the result is a fleet of delivery trucks  or even personal vehicles, which cost more to operate?

There are three parts to the N-FIB radio ads, and all three are demonstrably false.  Little wonder I never paid any dues into the organizations that purport to have my best interests at heart — but continue to lie to me, and others.  No amount of advertizing can buy integrity.

Comments Off on I Knew There Was A Reason: The Big N-FIBs

Filed under 2012 election, Economy, employment, financial regulation, Heck, Heller, manufacturing, Nevada politics, pollution, Republicans

>Tuesday: GOP No Regulations On Us Day

>

Surprise, surprise: “Mines seek timeout on a pollution control, Industry urges state (Nevada) to wait for U.S. decision on mercury.” [Las Vegas Sun] Summary – the mining industry wants to delay the implementation of Nevada’s restriction on mercury emissions in order to wait for Federal emissions regulations which it opposes. Deregulation anyone?

Surprise, surprise: The proposals emanating from the Republican Party for reforming the regulation of Wall Street definitely have a familiar ring to them: Create a board of regulators “to study systemic risk and report quarterly” with NO enforcement of supervisory powers. Instead of allowing the FDIC to seize and unwind “troubled non-bank institutions,” the Republicans want a “new chapter” in the bankruptcy statutes. The GOP would merge the Office of Thrift Supervision and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency into a single bank regulator taking on bank supervision now performed by the FDIC and the Federal Reserve. The Republicans would also phase out support for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and either convert them to fully private entities or place them in receivership. [Reuters] More deregulation and privatization anyone? Meanwhile, Nevadans wait for the other shoe to drop, “Next foreclosure wave building with defaults on fixed rate loans.” [LV Sun]

Surprise, surprise: The Mortgage Bankers Association plans to restart its legal challenge to the code of conduct for appraisals, which is intended to keep lenders and brokers from pressuring real estate appraisers to inflate home values. The NAMB also intends to oppose any changes in the way brokers are compensated for making loans. [WashIndy] Just keep things deregulated and everything will be fine?

Surprise, surprise: It’s Party Time for members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Lobbyists representing Amylin Pharmaceuticals, Millenium Pharmaceuticals, the Roche Group, and Genzyme Corporation, invited donors to a breakfast with Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), who has received about $2 million in campaign contributions from the health care industry for his campaigns. [SunFound]

desertbeacon.blogspot.com

Comments Off on >Tuesday: GOP No Regulations On Us Day

Filed under Economy, health insurance, Mining, pollution