I think many of us have learned by now that when politicians and corporate CEOs speak against what they refer to as “federal over reach” and how that will “increase consumer prices” and “cost jobs”, that this is often code for profits taking a hit in a given business. The concern then is more about how such action will affect their shareholders and executive bonuses rather than working families and their budgets.
Conservative politicians, especially those being re-born as Tea Partiers, interject this code-messaging at every opportunity. The conservatives we deal with today, more so than ever, are not true politicians as much as they are mouth pieces for corporate policy. There’s even an organization in place called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) that helps put together legislation disguised as a “job creators”. The Center for Media and Democracy says “these so-called ‘model bills’ reach into almost every area of American life and often directly benefit huge corporations.”
Much of what they defend is often dressed up to appeal to an individual’s sense of patriotism, religious values, and the spirit of individualism; characteristics that most any of us can attach ourselves to. The harm lies in that there is little virtue in policies that threaten our safety and health, reduce our health care benefits and keep most of us working for wages that are shrinking more and more while many corporate and financial entities see greater and greater profits.
An example of this approach is being persistently used by the man Tea Party favorites want to run for President – Texas Governor Rick Perry. Perry is playing the David vs. Goliath card as he continues to resist efforts by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reduce toxic emissions from coal-fired power plants. There are more coal-fired power plants (19) in Texas than any other state and there are more coming on-line for the near future. Though Perry has called for a day of prayer to deal with issues he and the Texas legislature feel reluctant to, not all of our problems are “beyond our power to resolve”, as Perry has declared.
The research is clear on at least one of the toxic agents, nitrogen oxides, that come from these plants and the damage they do to human respiratory systems. They are the largest contributors to green house gases that gather in the atmosphere, thus contributing to the man-made global warming that appears to be linked to the increased rate of flooding, droughts, hurricanes and other natural disasters. The Clean Air Task Force released a report less than a decade ago that “found that tens of thousands of people die prematurely every year and hundreds of thousands more suffer asthma attacks as a result of power plant pollution alone.”
People like Perry cannot fight the physical data that brings this fact home so he and others of his ilk create diversions and misinformation to prevent the very public he’s been elected to protect and watch over from getting the bigger picture here. They appear more intent on protecting special corporate interests and their profits while disguising it as concern for the “job losses” and “increased energy prices” that all Texans will have to endure.
In a recent editorial in the Houston Chronicle it was noted that Perry, fellow Texas politicians Bryan Shaw, chairman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and Senator John Cornyn referred to the EPA ruling to monitor coal plant emissions as “… another example of heavy-handed and misguided action from Washington, D.C., that threatens Texas jobs and families”, one that will “increase Texas energy costs,” and declared “outrageous” by Senator Cornyn.
But the EPA’s projections are far from outrageous: They estimate that a typical family’s electricity bill will increase by less than $1 per month, and by 2014 the rule will prevent up to 34,000 premature deaths, 400,000 cases of aggravated asthma and 1.8 million sick days a year, saving up to $280 billion annually in health costs. Those savings will far outweigh the projected $800 million in annual costs to implement the new rule and the estimated $1.6 billion annually to comply with a previous rule. And, according to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, the rule will also prevent from 670 to 1,700 premature deaths per year in Texas alone. SOURCE
Many are too willing to see government as Perry and others portray it without realizing that unfettered corporate interests can be equally egregious, if not more so. Without some federal and state oversight many businesses, some with headquarters outside the legal purview of this country, can cut corners and engage in activities that hurt millions of people, especially those that work for them. One only need to consider the tragic accidents that took the lives of coal miners in West Virginia last year along with the BP oil disaster in the Gulf.
When governments intervene on behalf of the general welfare of the public because a business’s product or production process poses a health and safety risk, not only for those who purchase it but for their neighbors and future generations, a business should make changes that reduces that threat. Likewise, the consumer needs to realize that there will be some cost increases to make this necessary changes.
If governments honestly represents their constituents based on established research and science, the business community should not circle the wagons and try to demonize that institution that has served them well through previous legislation and government subsidies. No man is island and when one person’s actions represent a danger to another then established law and ethics dictates that corrective measures be imposed.
EPA Director Lisa Jackson with President Obama
For businesses like Big Oil and Coal to cry foul when government seeks to impose standards and limits on their production processes that hurt us physically and take away from our earned wages in the form of higher health costs, it is cowardly and self-serving to invoke the coded message of “job losses” and “price increases” to fend off such actions.
Large corporations can usually absorb most of these costs with a combination of modest price increases and smaller profits and in so doing would demonstrate their willingness to meet their responsibilities as the corporate citizen they have fought so hard to have the courts declare them as.
Rather than shrieking about “heavy-handed and misguided action from Washington” as Gov. Perry of Texas has done, he and other government officials should work with the agency and the industry to see that mischief is avoided so that all lives may be better served, not just those who seek to guard their profits.
Jobs and low consumer prices are too often a trade-off for poor health and increased health care costs. In some cases they are the lesser value of the two where long-term health care is involved or loss of life occurs. Demonizing government that attempts to serve the public, not a chosen few, is a common practice by businesses and stoking the fears about “job losses” and “price increases” is merely one more tool in an arsenal to defend special corporate interests.
- Perry, Cornyn criticize push to reduce smog from coal plants (chron.com)
- Rick Perry Has to Eat Crow but Will Voters Notice Come Election Time? (woodgatesview.wordpress.com)