The first major bill brought to the floor by the Republican majority in the House of Representatives is a blatant declaration of war against environmental protection.
For all practical purposes, the GOP lawmakers are using their version of the 2011 budget extension proposal to strip the federal government of virtually all its capacity to regulate public health threats and environmental abuse. One-third of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) budget, along with much of its capability to enforce the Clean Air and Water Acts and regulate mountain top mining would be eliminated. So would funding for wilderness preservation and programs to combat climate change. Meanwhile, the bloated defense budget and enormous tax breaks to the oil barons would be barely touched in the Republicans' much publicized crusade to reduce the national debt.
Behind House Republicans' rationale for their budget extension bill is a flawed ideology in which entrepreneurial competition in a free market is deemed better equipped than regulation to keep the business community honest and foster prosperity. Ignored are the reams of empirical evidence that when the markets are allowed to operate in unfettered fashion, they present an irresistible invitation to the dark side of human nature.
Recognizing that the American people have repeatedly demonstrated they favor strong environmental and public health regulation, the GOP House lawmakers have sought to downplay their "shock and awe" assault on established law. They cast their effort in terms of cutting spending to reduce the budget deficit and lowering business' compliance costs to free up cash for additional job creation.
Neither claim ultimately holds water. Defunding regulations designed to protect the public health and the environment only leads to ballooning medical costs and premature closing of "dirty" manufacturing facilities because of hazardous conditions. The economic ramifications would almost assuredly nullify the budgetary benefits of spending cuts. Rolling back regulations would result in a shrunken pollution abatement work force and cancellation of projects for which an underfunded EPA would no longer be able to issue permits. We would be stuck with a scenario hardly ideal for job creation.
The Republican House majority is understandably reluctant to dwell on the philosophical underpinning behind its actions, considering its value system gives precedence to immediate monetary gratification over people's health and ecosystem viability.
Here is some more of the environmental legacy that the GOP House majority would bequeath to the American people if their budgetary extension were ever enacted into law (which mercifully is unlikely given a Democratic Senate and presidential veto).
- Defund much of the EPA's scientific research, rather hypocritical considering the GOP'S repeated denunciation of the quality of the agency's research.
- Emasculate virtually all of the government's family planning programs, both domestic and international.
- Slash the budget for renewable energy by two billion dollars.
- Eliminate subsidies to the poor for home heating
- Eliminate fishery conservation programs
- To top it all off, set in motion a disengagement from the United Nations and foreign aid, thereby displaying a disturbing anachronistic isolationism in an ever more interdependent world.
My money is on the American people in the ensuing weeks recognizing the House Republican majority has engaged in a monstrous overreach that puts the maxim, "Penny-wise, pound foolish" to shame.
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