Skip to comments.Thank God for the EPA -- or, there but for the grace of Nixon
Posted on 07/28/2008 5:39:59 AM PDT by grey_whiskers
One of the favorite targets of conservative pundits (and rightly so) is the liberal tendency to extremes. Oftentimes, a liberal will see a societal problem, and pronounce :This needs government! Quite often the liberal will see a real problem, too, but will either end up creating a massive, wasteful bureaucracy (say, Medicare or Social Security), or else use the problem as a excuse for a vastly disproportionate growth in governmental power (say, the IRS). As H. L. Mencken once wrote, Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.
One such example which bears further consideration is the EPA. This is the same agency which is associated with the destruction of countless jobs in the timber industry in the Pacific Northwest; the replacement of lead with other additives in gasoline; the salvation of the snail darter; and the infamous Superfund. To the EPA, guilt or innocence does not matter: what matters is that the environment must be saved at all costs! Columnist P.J. ORourke cites the example of hazardous-landfill regulations which, according to the Office of Management and Budget, and the EPAs own estimates, will cost $20 billion per life saved!
The EPA, and the attitude behind it, has been a millstone around the neck of American Industry for years. The response of Industry has been a set of truly ecological phenomenon: adaptation or extinction. The adaptation has included such things as going green think of the advertisements for BP as standing for beyond petroleum or the GE commercials for Ecomagination. Or, for that matter, a uniquely human invention, lobbying. But there is another response, far more interesting, also taken from the natural world. Migration. Much of the United States industrial base has moved to more hospitable climes: Mexico, India, China.
But a funny thing happened once the Industy has left the United States. Freed from the restraints of red tape (and just possibly, encouraged by government officials willing to look the other way for a small consideration?), business began rebuilding in a much friendlier ecosystem. No requirements for social security taxes, Medicare taxes, or unions; no vast environmental impact studies before building a plant; no worries about superfund cleanups afterwards. The Third World was only too happy to accept American corporations, in return for the jobs and money.
The results, after more than a decade, are becoming clear. Not just the disaster in Bhopal in 1984 it was just a precursor of things to come. Look at China, where the worst abuses run unchecked. The L.A. Times has an article on the dangers of particulate air pollution. But not in L.A., in Beijing: you can literally die from a heart attack caused by your blood thickening in response to the pollution. China Daily talks of a month-long algae bloom in the Yangtze river, which has renedered the water undrinkable. The Times Online (U.K.) has written of an incident when a local Chinese EPA official breathed in the fumes in a sewage treatment plant while testing the water, and passed out. This article goes on to say that the Chinese government agrees that over 300 million Chinese lack access to safe drinking water.)
And on and on. So what are the environmentalists doing about it? From all I can tell, they are trying to chase the rest of the industry out of the United States, to save polar bears (and, just possibly, their own cushy writing/speaking tours and posts as officials of concerned non-governmental organizations.). Ignoring, by the way, the minor cirucmstance that the carbon footprint of one city in China Linfen, the worlds most polluted city is 1,500 times that of all five boroughs of New York combined. Still, there is one good thing that has come out of the EPA in the United States. The worst pollution is over there and not over here. How long is it since the mighty Cuyahoga River has caught fire?
Oh, and one other thing. The EPA (as well as OSHA) were created during the administration of one Richard M. Nixon. There but for the grace of Nixon go I, is the saying. What would the liberals say about that?
So, is it good to have a department (the EPA) to help clean up messes like this, and to rein in egregious industrial abuses? I would say, "Yes".
BUT (and you knew this 'but' was coming....), does the EPA need to regulate industry out of existence to preserve habitat for spotted owls, polar bears, assorted bugs+mollusks, and so forth? Nope. Frankenstein's monster is the classic metaphor.
So....Conservatives and other sensible people are forced to argue AGAINST creation and expansion of these agencies, just to rein in their terrific abuse. It's a lose-vicious circle, IMHO.
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