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Why We Need the EPA

The administration has appointed Scott Pruitt, a corrupt Oklahoma oil supporter to be the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  He has a history in his home state of copying and pasting from the letters of oil company executives to legislation that he has submitted.  Due to hydrofracturing operations that his office permitted, Oklahoma has become the most tectonically active state in the union.  Homes and water sources are being damaged and destroyed.

His interests are not our interests.

But the destruction of the EPA is against the interests of American citizens.  And when companies chafe at the restrictions put into place by laws passed on congress, they blame the agency.  In truth, companies which put pollutants into the environment are morally and legally obligated to include safe disposal of waste in their budgets.  If they cannot remain viable, then they are not competitively practical to begin with.  Keeping our air, water, land and people clean and safe is not a restriction.  It’s a responsibility.

The EPA was created in 1972 in response to widespread pollution affecting the health and well being of American citizens.  Prior to this we had a mass of environmental disasters.  In 1969 the Cuyahoga River in Ohio caught fire.  The smog in Los Angeles precipitated daily health warnings, and there were reports of women’s pantyhose melting from their legs in the sulfuric acid laden atmosphere.  Air pollution in New York City was so bad that the “Fresh Air Fund” program was initiated to send city children to host homes in cleaner Upstate New York for the summer.  Acid rain killed hundreds of thousands of trees.  Children were exposed pre- and post- natally to deadly chemicals such as poly chlorinated biphenyls (PBCs) and pesticides.  America was ravaged by the special interests of chemical companies.

In my own home town in Upstate New York, the Susquehanna River was so polluted that it was unusable.  In fact, if one of us fell into it, we were required to obtain tetanus vaccinations.  The playground in my neighborhood, I later discovered, was so contaminated with creosote and arsenic it became an EPA superfund cleanup site.  Even with regulations in place, my niece suffered concurrent miscarriages due to contaminated well water coming out of her kitchen faucet.  Once she moved, she had three healthy children.

The mission of the EPA is “to protect human health and the environment — air, water, and land.”  As an arm of the executive branch of the government, the agency enforces the regulations created after congressional acts are passed.  The Clean Air Acts of 1963 and 1970 addressed the control of the release of pollutants into the atmosphere and defined acceptable minimums of air quality.  On December 2, 1970 the National Environmental Policy Act established the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to implement the requirements of those acts.

In 1972, amendments to the original Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948 created regulations prohibiting the release of pollutants into navigable waters and setting waste water standards for industry.  Some of the other responsibilities of the EPA include the regulation of asbestos in school buildings, public and commercial  buildings, and clean-up sites, the identification and control of toxic substances, defining and listing of hazardous materials, and the provision of Safety Data Sheets to employees of companies which use or produce hazardous chemicals.

Companies are allowed a certain amount of pollutant emissions annually.  These amounts are tradable, allowing companies that do not emit up to the limit the right to sell or “trade” their pollution allowance to companies who exceed emission limits.  This creates higher levels of pollution than normally acceptable from companies who fail to meet compliance standards.

The Endangered Species Protection Program (ESPP) requires the EPA to carry out it’s responsibilities under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). In compliance with the Endangered Species Act (ESA), animal protections are enforced with the goal of not placing unnecessary burden on agriculture and other pesticide users.  It is under FIFRA that President Trump recently green lighted the use of the pesticide Chlorpyrifos, an organophosphate that is known to cause pre and post natal inhibition of brain development in humans.

Even with the oversight of EPA, companies still participate in illegal dumping activities. These are difficult to track due to the fact that there are few EPA compliance inspectors, often one to an entire multi-state region.  One compliance inspector stated that inspectors are trained in observation and interviewing and are advised to keep moving so that it is more difficult for shooters to take aim.  He reported that during one inspection of an illegal dumping site, there were a large number of leaking barrels marked only with the warning, “This shit will kill you.”  Not knowing what materials were actually at the site made planning for cleanup even more difficult.

Some locations are so polluted they require a long-term response to clean up hazardous material contaminations.  These are designated as Superfund cleanup sites. The EPA is tasked with creating and maintaining a list of such locations, which are then placed on the National Priorities List (NPL).  Currently there are 1,322 such sites in the US, with another 53 being proposed for entry on the NPL. The US government under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) is required to fund cleanup of these polluted sites.

Without the Environmental Protection Agency, companies will once again be allowed to pollute unchecked without fear of regulation. The environmental condition of the United States will most likely revert to pre-EPA pollution levels as there will be no regulatory action and no incentives for industrial polluters to self regulate. Our country and our citizens will again suffer the effects of widespread pollution and contamination.  We will regress, and in doing so will reduce the levels of health and safety to which American citizens have become accustomed.

And polluters will again thrive unchecked.

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Ebola: Who’s at Fault?

The fault with Ebola can be spread far and wide.   Start with our Homeland security not seeing Ebola as a threat.  Move to a do-nothing congress unwilling to fund research and development, equipment and training. Then look at a racist, hubris filled country which did not demand action while this disease was decimating African nations and believes that somehow chanting USA! USA! makes us better and more capable than other nations.  That is the pot.

Next add a drug industry uninterested in developing medications and treatments for conditions and diseases which don’t pay and instead concentrate on developing drugs for men (Viagra, Cialis) and the wealthy (Botox, Cancer treatments). Stir in apathy and a large portion of unwillingness to see beyond the bottom line.

Bring to a boil over a fire of mistaken belief that Americans are John Wayne clones who can handle any threat with enough gun fire.

Now go to Texas where these beliefs are exaggerated.  Enter a corporate hospital where oversight is slack, and budgeting focuses on corporate gain instead of patient care.  Investment in employee training and personal protective equipment is minimal, despite the deaths overseas and the growth of local refugee populations.  Overconfidence and lack of understanding of the situation upon patient admission left any who came in contact exposed.  The incompetence and lack of training of the state and local health departments as well as the hospital’s concerns about liability (nurses were advised to use their best judgement) combined with a media mandate to minimize the threat in order to not “cause a panic” despite the very facts they were reporting, to create an environment in which contamination and transmission were practically guaranteed.

Finally, sprinkle liberally with a health care system that encourages the poor to stay away from diagnosis and treatment until they are in extremis and you have not just a recipe, but a mandate for disaster.  At each level ignorance, greed, overconfidence, dodging of responsibility and racism are putting not just Americans, but the entire hemisphere at risk.  

However, this is hardly the time to be divesting ourselves of experts. Reporters at CNN stated “Americans don’t want to be told to stay at home and watch daytime TV for three weeks”.  Of course we don’t.  But, it doesn’t matter what we want now.  It doesn’t matter what the bottom line is.  It doesn’t matter how many guns you have or what political party you belong to.  We have to put all that aside, admit it and deal with it. 

Ebola is a deadly epidemic and it’s here.  It’s in Dallas, and it’s quite possibly cropping up in other Texas cities, in New Haven, Connecticut and perhaps Ohio. It will show up in other places.  We can’t close our borders to disease.  A wall won’t keep it out.  America is going to have to buckle down and prepare.  We will have to spend money.  We will have to learn something.  We will have to train people.  

We don’t have time to argue about blame.  That will have to wait.  We need to get to work.  Together.

Tax Cut Voodoo

Magical thinking is the belief that facts can be changed by repeating words or phrases that are not based in reality.  In this case it’s that cutting taxes will cure our financial problems.  Ask any Tea Partier, tax cuts will solve the financial problems of the United States.  Big businesses will use that money to expand and hire more American workers, money will be spread around and everyone will share in the wealth.  All this if we just cut taxes.

Unfortunately, the reality is that big businesses have had tax cuts and still do have them and none of these outcomes are happening.  Unemployment is still high, businesses are still shipping jobs overseas and citizens are losing their homes in record numbers.  This is the actual result of tax cuts. Still, there are a lot of folks in Congress are sprinkling dried toad powder into bowls of stumpwater, chanting their magical spell: Tax cuts will save the nation.

In the past I have asked senators and congressmen who’ve contacted me for my support to explain the tax cut magic to me.  None of them have answered me.  And I’m not surprised because when you really start looking at the system, it makes no sense.

  1. The biggest employer in the United States IS the United States.  If the Federal Government stops spending, jobs are lost.
  2. When jobs are lost, those who lose them are no receiving incomes.
  3. People without incomes are not getting tax cuts.
  4. If folks aren’t getting tax cuts (or incomes, for that matter) how are they going to spend?
And in an economy where no one is spending, no one is making money.
Then, when you have tax cuts, state and local governments have to let employees go.  These people live in communities where grocers, auto repair shops, plumbers, electricians, contractors, lawyers, doctors, farmers, teachers, shopkeepers, funeral home directors and other businessmen and woman live by making money providing goods and services to the people in their community.  With their customers out of work, these people stop making money.  And under these circumstances, who is going to expand, even if they are getting tax cuts?
Meanwhile huge corporations who built their wealth on the backs of hardworking Americans are treating their employees like first wives who got them through college then leave them behind for a more attractive, cheaper workforce.  Except these corporations aren’t paying their child support. Tax cuts won’t be spent in the United States.  Tax cuts these companies receive go to India and Thailand and China.
So my question is, when based in reality and not wishful thinking, how do tax cuts actually help our country at this time?  In a recession or depression, spending money is the only thing that helps.  And the only folks with the where with all to do that is the federal government.  The Roosevelt Administration put into place programs to employ workers such as the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps.  He also put regulations on banks that maintained integrity in our financial systems until the Reagan Administration.  When Reagan started dismantling our carefully crafted safeguards, the result was the great Savings and Loan failure beginning with the Penn Square bank in Oklahoma City.  Further dismantling has been done until the thin line between corporate banking and personal banking disappeared.  The loss of limits created an environment in which speculators and unscrupulous investors made mortgage loans into snatch and grab schemes and defrauded Americans out of billions of dollars.  This loss of regulation, the “gud fer bidness” attitude of the Bush administration left Americans out in the cold.
So now we’re being held hostage, being fed a thin gruel of “tax breaks” as the ultimate nutrition for the country.  Look around.  Tax breaks won’t help the citizenry.  They won’t have an effect on those of us in the most need.  They will only help those who are already draining this country dry. And where will they put their money in off-shore accounts and investments.
Spending in the United States is bad mojo.  But if you really believe in magic, maybe tax breaks will help.  And maybe Santa and the Easter Bunny will will bring us gold from the end of the rainbow.

Balance the Budget

Republicans and Democrats are fighting like dogs over a bone to have their way in the Great Budget War of 2011.  Democrats agree that we spend too much and that cuts must be made to programs.  Republicans are barking, “BALANCE THE BUDGET! NO NEW TAXES!”  In a perfect world that would be wonderful and productive.

However,  expecting to balance the US budget like we balance our budgets at home is just naive.  It isn’t like balancing a checkbook.  It’s much more complex.  Our economy is a world-class and what we do affects markets worldwide.  If we default, other countries don’t get their money.

Those countries are entitled to their money, so instead of the money they just take possession of that amount of the US.  That’s how bankruptcy works.  You default on your loan, the bank takes your collateral.

And that’s how China gets control of the United States of America.  We give it to them.

Right now the US Dollar is the world’s currency.  If you want to buy oil, you have to purchase US Dollars to do it.  Asia, Europe, Australia and folks on all other continents must purchase dollars from us to buy oil, wheat, technology, and other commodities.  This keeps us in a position of control in the world economy.  This is determined by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Recently, though, Dominique Strauss-Khan the head of the IMF was arrested in New York on charges of sexual misconduct at his hotel.  While this was being worked out, he was removed as head of the IMF and Christine Lagarde was put in his place.  Will Lagarde be as staunch a supporter of the dollar as Strauss-Khan was?  Let’s hope so.  Because if our dollar loses it’s place in the world’s markets, our economy will plummet to third world country status.  And just like that we’ll be buying Chinese Yuan to buy oil and gas.  An prices will skyrocket.

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