Tag Archives: pollution

Republican Water Wars: Clean Drinking Water and GOP Polluters

Amodei 3 It’s really hard to argue against Clean Water.  It’s especially difficult to argue against Clean Drinking Water in light of what’s happening to the public in Flint, Michigan.  However, that hasn’t stopped Republican members of Congress like Representatives Hardy (R-NV4), Heck (R-NV3), and Amodei (R-NV2) from aligning themselves with those who want to curtail, delay, and ultimately defeat regulations designed to prevent stream contamination in “coal country.”

Easy and Cheap Coal Mining or Clean Drinking Water?

Back in May 2015, opponents of clean water regulations decided to oppose any administration efforts to regulate what mining companies did with the debris from mountain top coal operations:

“Congressional Republicans are seeking to block an imminent rule protecting Appalachian streams from mountaintop removal mining, as opponents of the controversial practice say the mines are getting closer to communities and harming people’s health.

The White House is expected to announce a stricter rule for the disposal of mountaintop-removal mining waste into streams. Some Republicans in Congress are describing the move as the latest campaign in the Obama administration’s “war on coal.” [McClatchy DC] [see also The Hill]

The opposition would go beyond  the Reagan Era (1983) regulations which did not allow dumping debris within 100 feet of a river or stream.  The coal industry thought it had the system beaten when the George W. Bush administration allowed “waivers” from the rules during the last months of his presidency. [SeattleTimes]  The Obama administration promptly rescinded the last minute Bush Gift to the Coal Companies.  Coal interests just as promptly hauled out the hyperbole and declared the administration was declaring a War On Coal.

The result of the opposition clamor against allowing mining companies to dump debris into rivers and streams was the STREAM Act.  While the act doesn’t allow outright the trashing of American rivers and streams, it does wrap the EPA and Corps of Engineers in endless studies, evaluations of studies, and interminable hurdles to protecting water sources.  Representatives Heck, Hardy, and Amodei appear to be marching along with the coal industry.  Each voted in favor of the STREAM Act on January 12, 2016. [roll call 42]

Is Anyone Surprised?

The drinking water calamity in Flint, Michigan is a man-made problem.  Actions taken to “save money” have obviously proven to exacerbate contamination such that the population of Flint has been exposed to toxic lead levels.  We know what lead does – we also know what happens when a state government fails to act swiftly and responsibly to impending disaster.

What happens when creeks are filled with iron and aluminum hydroxides? When streams are polluted with contaminants from mountain top removal coal operations?  Three peer reviewed studies in central Appalachia found: (1) An overall increase in the rate of birth defects in counties with mountain top mining; (2) A 14.4% cancer rate compared to non-mountain top mining areas with a 9.4% rate; and (3) a $74.6 billion per year public health expense burden on Appalachian communities. [KFTC pdf]  This is not an isolated problem, nor is it new:

Between 1985 and 2001, 6,697 valley fills were approved in Appalachia, covering 83,797 acres of land and potentially affecting 438,472 acres of watershed.20 Valley fills can be as wide as 1,000 feet and over a mile long, and each can contain as much as 250 million cubic yards of wastes and debris—enough to fill almost 78,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
Burying fragile headwater streams located in valleys exterminates virtually all forms of life that get interred under millions of tons of waste and debris. From 1985 to 2001, the EPA estimates that valley fills buried 724 miles of streams.22 Another study conducted by the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) found that approximately 535 miles of streams were negatively affected by mining from 2001 to 2005.23 All told, nearly 2,000 miles of Appalachian headwaters have been buried or polluted by mountaintop removal, and the damage to Appalachian watercourses has continued at an average rate of 120 miles per year. [NRDC(pdf)]

stream pollution

The track record doesn’t sound promising for those who want to protect their drinking water supplies, and the actions of the pollution protectors aren’t helping.  Perhaps Representatives Amodei, Heck, and Hardy, would care to explain why they don’t seem particularly disturbed about higher than normal levels of calcium, magnesium, manganese, sulfate, and selenium in coal country drinking water?

What does this stuff do?

 

We know that manganese is one of those minerals we need as part of a normal diet, but we also know that high concentrations of manganese isn’t a good thing for children – the young apparently having a greater absorption rate than adults – and that high absorption often correlates to learning disabilities. [WHO pdf] This is a bit more damage than just the brown staining on laundry common to manganese contaminated water, and much more than the toxicity it has for plant life – a burden for farmers downstream. [USGS]

Magnesium is not considered all that dangerous, in correct (normal) levels.  There is no “maximum contaminant level” assigned to this mineral. [EHS pdf]  However, both magnesium and calcium contribute to what is popularly known as “hard water,” that ever present danger to plumbing, and household appliances such as washing machines and hot water heaters.

Sulfates are another matter.   Right off the bat, water containing more than 400 mg/L should NOT be used when preparing infant formula. [MHealth] And, the stuff is corrosive, if the sulfate in the water exceeds 250 mg/L (MCL)  copper piping is particularly susceptible to corrosion. [MHealth]  Thus leading to copper contamination.  Sulfates have what is known politely as a “laxative effect,” which is not all that appealing when combined with the knowledge that sulfates are causing scale build up in the water pipes. [UGA edu pdf]  Nor should we diminish the impact of a “laxative effect” on young children and infants for whom diarrhea and dehydration can be quite serious health risks.

Selenium is a real mess.  It’s a heavy metal, and the current maximum contaminant level is 0.05 ppm (parts per million).  Long term higher-than-normal exposure can (and usually does) result in hair and fingernail loss, damage to the kidneys and liver tissue, as well as damage to the nervous and circulatory system.  In other words, it’s truly dangerous. [EPA]

Since much of the more obvious damage appears to be targeted at plumbing, pipes, and appliances, it’s too easy to dismiss the pollutants as mild (compared to the Lost Jobs?) about which the coal industry is concerned.  However, there are other contaminants to consider associated with coal mining operations:  Acid mine drainage; Coal Slurry, Coal Ash,  the ever present bug bear – Selenium, and Total Maximum Daily Loads.  [AppV]

And the mountain top removal contribution to the problems?  WV public.org reports: “It was pretty obvious to me that below valley fills, water was pretty tainted, and then it became a question of, ‘Is it getting into the human water supply?’” Stout said. “I started sampling people’s houses; some people’s water is really good, other people’s water is really appalling.” Stout has tested for and found water spiked with heavy metals and other contaminants. “Before it’s disturbed it’s as good of water you’re going to find anywhere on the planet. But after that it becomes tainted with heavy metals and bacteria and so forth and becomes unusable, except that these people don’t have any recourse,” Stout said.”

Nor, we might add, do the people of Flint have much recourse.

It’s a plausible argument that Representatives Hardy, Heck, and Amodei, are staunchly defending the exploiters and polluters who are managing a 19th century industry – rather like defending the profits of the buggy whip manufacturers before Ford.  Not only is natural gas making headway into the former domains of coal, but both wind and solar assets are increasing as well. As one environmental improvement advocacy group puts it, “Coal is making a long goodbye.”

Representatives Amodei, Heck, and Hardy appear to have both feet firmly planted in an America of the 20th century while we’re a decade into the 21st.  When they speak to their “visions” of America, voters might want to remember this point.

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Filed under Amodei, ecology, health, Heck

Cost Benefit Analysis Scramble

Cost Benefit Analysis

One of the dark clouds on the week that was in the U.S. Supreme Court was the decision in Michigan v. the Environmental Protection Agency, one portion of which reads:

“Our reasoning so far establishes that it was unreasonable for EPA to read §7412(n)(1)(A) to mean that cost is irrelevant to the initial decision to regulate power plants. The Agency must consider cost—including, most importantly, cost of compliance—before deciding whether regulation is appropriate and necessary,…”

Important Distinctions

First, let’s differentiate between a CBA (a cost benefit analysis) and a Cost Effectiveness Analysis (CEA).   There are two important functions of a CBA: (1) To determine if an investment or a decision is justifiable or feasible. (2) To provide a way to compare and contrast alternative projects or proposals. Additionally, “In CBA, benefits and costs are expressed in monetary terms, and are adjusted for the time value of money, so that all flows of benefits and flows of project costs over time (which tend to occur at different points in time) are expressed on a common basis in terms of their “net present value.”

The most common use of the CEA is found in the health sector.  In a CEA  the outcome is expressed as a ratio.  The denominator is the quantified gain, while the numerator is the cost associated with the gains.  For example, we know that sterilized surgical theaters yield quantifiable positive results for patients, therefore the costs associated with sterilization far outweigh the costs of sanitizing the facilities.

Another analysis which gets folded into the mixture is the analysis of the Social Return on Investment, or abbreviated SROI.  There are four elements considered: Inputs (investments), Outputs (products), Outcomes (benefits), and Impact (difference between the policy or practice change and what would have happened if nothing had been done.) [Investopedia]

There are other formats for analysis:  Cost/utility analysis; Risk/benefit analysis; and the Economic impact/analysis.  The definitions and descriptions of these forms are readily available from online sources.

The problem is that the CBA isn’t a static form of analysis.  Just as each problem in both the public and private sector has unique factors, the CBA may take on some elements from other formats – the CEA, the SROI, and the others.  Often the term “CBA” is used with great precision, i.e. it returns a study yielding a net present value.  There are other examples illustrating how the term CBA in common parlance and news reporting is an admixture of individual studies speaking to the CEA ratios, or the SROI elements.

As in so many other unfortunate instances, the cost/benefit analysis has come to mean what the partisan advocates want it to mean. One of the pitfalls involved in being a good consumer of news and political rhetoric is that the listener is required to sort out precisely what analysis is being described or advocated. The most common source of confusion comes when a CBA is conflated with an Economic Impact Study:

“One industry’s outputs are inputs to other industries, and vice versa. Input-output analysis measures all of the linkages and flows within the matrix (the economy). Based on these linkages and flows, the cumulative effect of any given stimulus (or change) can be derived. This is how multipliers are calculated.” [Decision Analyst Ser]

A public sector example might be that of a decision to build a public broadband access system.  This would trigger spending for infrastructure necessities for the system, which in turn increases employee and contractor income, causing (in sequence) more disposable spending for the local (or national) economy.  If we study the “linkages and flows” as the the project impacts the community we can calculate the cumulative “economic impact.”

So, when politicians speak to the necessity of doing cost/benefit analyses on government regulation it’s important to pin them down on precisely what form of analysis they are advocating, and how the form of the analysis can influence the reported results.

Good news Bad news

The bad news from the Michigan v. EPA  decision is that the EPA is required to perform a cost benefit analysis on emission regulations promoted by the EPA.  The slightly better news is that the decision doesn’t do what corporate radicals want – dismantle the EPA. Nor does the decision declare that the EPA may not issue rules on carbon or other pollutant emissions, granted that it does constitute another shackle on the Agency’s attempt to clear the air.

One way to support the efforts of the EPA to enforce the provisions of the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts might be be advocate for more, not less, study – studies which incorporate the CEA elements (health benefits included) and SROI quadrants which incorporate social benefits.

The argument that government regulations should hinge upon the notion that private sector operations should agree that the regulations are “not too expensive,” is a narrow, corporatist, perspective, and one which would all but insure no regulation of exploiters and polluters.  A better approach is to take into consideration the cumulative economic impact of regulations and the social returns we can make on our national investments.

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Filed under ecology, Economy

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?

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Filed under Amodei, ecology, Nevada politics, pollution

Clean Up In My Back Yard: Record Fine for Henderson Contamination

Memories! Remember when Republican senatorial candidate Sharron Angle proposed eliminating the Department of Education, the Department of Energy, and the Environmental Protection Agency?  Hint: March 22, 2010. [Politifact] Fast forward to 2011 during which House Republicans introduced amendments to H.R. 1 which would have drastically cut funding to the EPA? [TP]  In 2012 Republicans wanted to enact the REINS Act (thinly disguised attack on the EPA) [Grist] and in 2013 a House Committee approved a 19% funding cut to the beleaguered agency. [Politico]  Fast forward —

What has the EPA and its state counterpart, the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection done for us lately?

“One of the world’s largest titanium manufacturers has agreed to pay a record $13.8 million penalty for producing and dumping banned cancer-causing chemicals at its Henderson factory.  Under a settlement with federal regulators announced Wednesday, Titanium Metals Corporation, or TIMET, also agreed to perform an extensive investigation and cleanup of potential contamination from the unauthorized manufacture and disposal of PCBs at its 108-acre site on Lake Mead Parkway east of U.S. Highway 95.” [LVRJ]

What’s close to the dump site?  A Target store and a hospital. Let’s review:  No EPA/NDEP, no fines. No EPA/NDEP no required clean up.  And, the Target store and the hospital would still be sitting there amidst the carcinogens.

Those harboring the delusion that contamination is a minor problem and Mother Nature will take care of things in her own time, might want to harken back to the Carson River mercury problem which affects residents of (and tourists to) Churchill, Lyon, and Storey counties.  The mercury went into the river during the Virginia City boom years — the effect is a current warning from the state of Nevada:

“Due to elevated levels of methylmercury in fish, the Nevada State Health Division has issued health advisories recommending no consumption of any fish from Big and Little Washoe Lakes, Lahontan Reservoir, and the Carson River from Dayton downstream to the reservoir. Mercury can cause permanent damage to the nervous system and serious disabilities for developing fetuses and children. Catch and release of fish, swimming, and recreation are safe.”

And then there are those 3,400 acres in Mason Valley associated with the old Anaconda mine site.   Atlantic Richfield is still reporting to Region 9 EPA authorities on the monthly progress made to clean up that mess. [pdf]

Meanwhile back in the 4th District in Texas, Congressman Ralph Hall wants us to know about ‘guv’mint regg-u-lations:’

“I know firsthand how burdensome government regulations are on small businesses. In order to reignite our economy, we need to curb stifling regulation, reduce taxes and, as part of the effort to bring back jobs, we must eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency.” — March 25, 2014.

I am having a bit of trouble seeing Atlantic Richfield, once part of British Petroleum, and sold to Tesoro, Inc. in June 2013 for $2.5 billion, as a struggling small business.  Meanwhile, the Washoe County Republicans are pleased to offer a link to a Heritage Foundation article on preventing the EPA from regulating extraction industries on their Facebook page:

Washoe GOP EPA

 

And this would prevent… fines for dumping carcinogens? Efforts to monitor mercury pollution on the Carson River?  Clean up management at the Anaconda site?

The most recent Heritage paean to the Oil and Gas Giants comes with some interesting quirks. (1) It doesn’t mention any of the benefits of cleaning up our messes; (2) It radically overstates estimates costs and job losses; (3) It comes to quite different conclusions than three other independent studies; (4) It devises its very own statistical model and then proceeds to operate therefrom = no transparency; and (5) It has a financial incentive to be misleading, read: Koch Brothers donations.  [MMA]

In short, eliminating the regulations and the regulatory agencies doesn’t do a thing for people who shop in stores located near old chemical dump sites, or for people using bottled water to avoid contaminated drinking water, or for people who want to go fishing and release a few of the ‘specimens to grease’ on a weekend outing.  It merely serves to pad the bottom lines of those with already well padded bottoms.

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Filed under ecology, EPA

H.R. 2279 and Amodei’s Arithmetic

Amodei pollutionRepresentative Mark Amodei (R-NV2) is delighted to tell us how much he values Freedom and Limited Government — unless, of course, the legislation in question would benefit the Big Corporations and their deregulation agenda.  We are also given to know how he’s all in to protect the Little Guy, the average Joe, the Great American Taxpayer — unless, of course, the legislation in question would lift the burden from the shoulders of corporate America and place it squarely on the backs of The Little Guys, those Great American Taxpayers.  Witness: The Reducing Excessive Deadline Obligations Act. While the citizens of West Virginia were trying to figure out whether or not to stock up on yet more bottled water, the Congress of the United States of America passed this highly dubious act for the benefit of major corporations, “that will greatly reduce the EPA’s ability to monitor environmental and health violations, leaving that responsibility to the states, many of which are constrained in their ability by tight budgets.” [Contributor]

“The three separate pieces of legislation included in the packet (combined in the bill)  were proposed by Republican representatives Cory Gardner of Colorado and Bob Latta and Bill Johnson of Ohio.  Altogether, the three Republicans have received more than $1,190,000 from the dirty energy industry.”  [Contributor]

Whether or not one wishes to refer to the energy lobby as “dirty,” the fact remains that the letters of support for the enaction of H.R. 2279 the Reducing Excessive Deadline Obligations Act, represent a Who’s Who of the energy and chemical industries:  the American Chemistry Council, the American Coke and Coal Chemical Institute, the American Iron and Steel Institute, the American Petroleum Institute, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Mining Association, the American Exploration and Mining Association, the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates,  the Fertilizer Institute, and the Utility Solid Waste Activities Group.  [EC House] So, what did these industry lobby groups get for their efforts?  A bill that would “… require the President to consult with states before enforcing federal environmental law. The measure also would prohibit the EPA from imposing overlapping regulations on states that have rules on solid waste disposal and require all federally owned facilities to comply with state requirements on hazardous substances.” [AllAg] Actually, there was more than merely turning the current environmental regulations upside down, leaving the states to literally clean up messes created by industrial waste disposal and accidental emissions.  There was the matter of who would PAY for the clean up of toxic or unsanitary conditions created by waste disposal and hazardous contamination.   Here’s the gory part:

“No owner or operator of a vessel or facility who establishes  and maintains evidence of financial responsibility associated with the production, transportation, treatment, storage, or disposal of  hazardous substances pursuant to financial responsibility requirements  under any State law or regulation, or any other Federal law or regulation, shall be required to establish or maintain evidence of financial responsibility under this title, unless the President determines, after notice and opportunity for public comment, that in the event of a release of a hazardous substance that is not a federally permitted release or authorized by a State permit, such other Federal or State financial responsibility requirements are insufficient to cover likely response costs under section 104. If the President  determines that such other Federal or State financial responsibility  requirements are insufficient to cover likely response costs under  section 104 in the event of such a release, the President shall accept  evidence of compliance with such other Federal or State financial responsibility requirements in lieu of compliance with any portion of the financial responsibility requirements promulgated under this title to which they correspond.”  [GPO]

Translation:  We’re going to junk the long-standing requirements that those who caused the pollution in the first place are responsible for paying to clean up behind themselves by by allowing “insufficient existing requirements to block Superfund obligations,” and as a result saddle state and local governments with the clean up costs. Representative Amodei certainly sat on a rickety fence in regard to H.R. 2279.  Either he wanted to protect the average Nevada taxpayer from the obligation to finance the clean up after an industrial or mining pollution event — or — he wanted to protect the industry from having to pay to clean up after itself, and dump the financial obligations on the state and counties.  He opted for protecting the Big Industries.   Thus the next time Representative Amodei speaks of “burdensome” rates of taxation, and talks of removing that burden from the backs of the tax paying public, the appropriate response could easily be — What about your vote on  H.R. 2279?

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Filed under Amodei, Economy, Politics, public safety

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.

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

The Very Pat Answer To Every Question: Three Pillars of the Financialist Creed

One of the significant problems associated with Democrats is their propensity to get wonkish when policy questions arise.  Democrats quite often take policy questions seriously and thereby offer long answers to short questions while their Republican counterparts are busy repeating the Three Pillars of the Financialist Creed: Less Government, Less Taxation, and More Freedom.

The first two elements are easily decipherable. Less government means corporations are less regulated. A less regulated corporation has greater latitude to pollute the environment in manufacturing processes, and greater license to speculate in highly dubious investments.  The targets of sustained attacks by Congressional Republicans bear this out.  What have they set their sites upon? Two examples should suffice.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — The first wave of GOP attacks assaulted the Bureau as “unaccountable,” “too powerful,” and “didn’t solve Too Big To Fail.”  The second wave came from the House action to defund the agency. The third wave focused on crippling the agency by refusing to confirm a director. [Fiscal Times] The fourth wave comes as Republicans declare the recess appointment of Richard Cordray  unconstitutional.  [TPM] A fifth wave comes in as House Republicans complain that the agency will be too expensive. [Bloomberg]   Why attack the CFPB?

Why have there been five major waves of attack on an agency the mission statement of which says its job is: “To make markets for consumer financial products and services work for Americans by promoting transparency and consumer choice and preventing abusive and deceptive financial practices.” [Treas pdf] Don’t we want transparency? Consumer choice? And, the prevention of “abusive and deceptive financial practices?”  Yes, but the bankers want to “self-regulate,” and we saw where that got us in 2008.

The entire point being made by the Republican opponents of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is not about our freedom from deceptive, abusive, and predatory lending practices, but the license for the bank holding companies to devise and market any financial products they believe to be profitable in the short term.

The Environmental Protection Agency — Republican presidential candidates Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul, Herman Cain, and Newt Gingrich have all called for the abolition of this agency.   However, when the Pew Center asked if environmental regulations cost too many jobs and hurt the economy only 39% of the general population respondents said yes, and only 22% of Republicans categorized as “Main Street” adherents replied in the affirmative.  [Pew pdf]  Given this gap between the positions taken by Republican leadership and the view of the general public, why would the GOP so diligently on the offensive about the EPA?

Why the emphasis on the alleged job-killing nature of regulation? “The dialogue between ‘jobs’ and ‘regulation’ is endless and repetitive, and in almost every instance, the claims by industry that new, more protective regulations would result in job losses and harm competitiveness have turned out to be dramatically overstated.” [Guardian] If the historical claims have been overblown, then why the perpetual hue and cry from conservatives?

The answer is that the American Petroleum Institute, the major oil companies, and the major chemical manufacturers would very much like to be free of government oversight and regulation.

This issue isn’t about our communities being free of air pollution, or the statistics concerning the incidence of childhood asthma declining in our cities and towns.  It isn’t about clean drinking water coming out of our taps, and the proper disposal and treatment of waste water.  It’s about the license given to major corporations to cut corners and save expenses in their production and manufacturing processes — again, in the short term.  The Republicans may bemoan the regulation of dry cleaning fluid disposal, but their bottom line corresponds more definitively with corporate quarterly earnings reports.

Lower taxes cure everything. Almost.  There’s a major exception to the general Republican rule.  It seems perfectly acceptable to allow increases in payroll taxes (those paid by most American workers) but not acceptable to raise taxes on millionaires and billionaires.  The Bush Administration tax cuts in 2001 and 2003 are demonstrably beneficial predominantly to those in the highest income brackets, yet the Republicans have strenuously objected to allowing these cuts to expire.

Republican arguments are framed as “taking your hard earned money out of your pocket to give to someone else,” but it appears to be quite acceptable to them that our pockets are picked while the millionaires and billionaires secure their wallets.   Lost in the deluge of rhetoric is the answer to a rather simple question — If lower rates of taxation are the panacea for everything that ails us, why when we have the lowest rates since the Eisenhower Administration are we not awash in jobs?

Republicans oppose increasing the taxation rate on carried interest but had difficulty supporting the extension of payroll tax reductions.  This should have been a dead give-away.  It’s not OUR taxes about which they are the most concerned.  WE pay increasing state and local levels of taxation to make up for cuts in federal spending.  WE pay payroll taxes and sales taxes, while the billionaires pay 15% on their hedge fund income.   We are told we can’t have nice things (Social Security, Medicare, a modern infrastructure) because we can’t “afford them.”  The response, of course, is that we could afford them if the billionaire financialists weren’t so firmly implanted in our government.

More freedom — to what?  We’re not “free” to take an affordable family vacation if the national parks have to close down on some days or raise the fees.  We’re not “free” to plan our retirement if we have to consider that the Social Security safety net might be privatized and added to the money Wall Street gets to play with in its casino.  We’re not “free” to shop for comprehensible and honest home loans if mortgage originators are given license to devise products that turn toxic with the first balloon payment.

We aren’t “free” from the impact of toxic waste disposal if the plant or mine upstream has license to dump whatever wherever.  We aren’t “free” to purchase products for our children and infants if we have to do our own chemical analysis to see if they contain toxic contaminants.  We aren’t “free” to make intelligent consumer purchases if we don’t have access to information about basic product safety.

We want the freedom to work. However, that doesn’t mean we want employers to have the license to demand that we labor in unsafe working conditions.  We want our high rise construction workers secure in their environs; we want our chemical workers safe from emissions. We don’t want to watch vigils of miner’s families while they wait for someone to be found alive, or not.

If our recent history is any guide, what we want is a capitalist system which rewards work, inspires entrepreneurship, and secures our futures.  What we could do without is the Financialist myopic vision of short term gains at the expense of long term economic growth, and quick revenue booked in the quarterly earnings reports at the expense of the American dream.

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