Given the Bush administration's philosophy of environmental protection -- a preference for carrots rather than sticks -- and its poor overall environmental record, it makes sense to question the wisdom of its proposal to cut 270 enforcement positions from the Environmental Protection Agency and replace them with $25 million in grants to states. Add to that the contents of two critical reports on the EPA -- from the General Accounting Office (GAO) and the EPA's own Office of Inspector General (OIG) -- and it becomes clear that Senate conferees should do more than question the plan. They should insist that it be removed from the appropriations bill passed by the House. The accounting office concluded that the EPA "cannot demonstrate that the staff reductions will be absorbed without impairing its effectiveness." It also noted that in states which do not receive federal grants, "it is possible that the level of enforcement activity may actually be reduced" as a result of the change. Resources aside, what about the relative effectiveness of federal and state enforcement? The Bush administration asserts that states would be better at enforcing EPA regulations, since they do much of the work now anyway and are closer to the pollution problems. However, the GAO found nothing to support that assertion. Furthermore, closeness can work against enforcement. Polluting industries often have more political clout within their states, where their contributions to the economy are most clearly felt, than with the federal government. In a separate report, the EPA's inspector general found significant weaknesses in states' water-quality enforcement programs. It cites a 1998 water-quality inventory showing that "nearly 40 percent of the nation's assessed waters are not meeting the standards states have set for them." It also noted, "The EPA reports that a majority of Americans live within 10 miles of a polluted river, lake, stream or coastal area."" --MST ED, 8/28/01
WEEK 32...Bush Lied About The Effect Of His Tax Cuts On The Ec onomy During The Campaign, And He's Lying Now
"The Congressional Budget Office, which does honest work but under certain constraints -- more on that in a minute -- is supposed to release its own estimate today, but the main results have already been leaked. They show a deficit outside Social Security this year, a tiny surplus next year, then a return to deficit in 2003 and 2004. And these numbers, read properly, flatly refute two of the arguments you'll hear over the next few days. First, the administration will tell you that the return to deficits is the result of the economic slowdown. Not so: the C.B.O., like the administration, assumes that the economy will recover next year, but projects that we will be in deficit through 2004. Why? Because the tax cut grows over time, and the revenue lost because of that growing tax cut is more than the revenue gained from economic recovery. Why has the prospect of surpluses been replaced by the prospect of deficits, even after the economy recovers? To coin a phrase: It's the tax cut, stupid. Second, the administration will try to blame big spenders in Congress for the deficits. But who are these big spenders? The only major new spending items in the C.B.O. projection are for defense and education -- both in response to administration initiatives. And it's the administration, not the Democrats, that has described the defense increase as a mere "down payment" on much larger future sums. Those future defense increases aren't in the C.B.O. projection, because the rules under which C.B.O. operates force it to project the budget as if current policy will remain unchanged. So the C.B.O. projection leaves out the budget-busters it knows are out there, such as Donald Rumsfeld's next installment and the cost of fixing the alternative minimum tax. Put those items in, and the picture is clear: the surplus is gone, and we won't see it again as long as the tax cut goes through as scheduled. But the important point for now involves honor and credibility. Mr. Bush promised not to dip into the Social Security surplus; he has broken that promise. Critics told you that would happen; they have been completely vindicated. Mr. Bush told you it wouldn't; he lied." --Paul Krugman, 8/28/01
WEEK 31...Bush Environmental Policy Is Clearly Anti-Environmental In Those He Hires
"President Bush has been quietly filling key subcabinet posts with conservative activists and industry lobbyists who have spent their careers criticizing the laws they are now sworn to uphold. These appointments should dispel any doubts about Mr. Bush's intention to weaken the strong environmental protections he inherited from the Clinton administration. Unlike his father, who reached into academia and even the environmental community for some of his appointments, Mr. Bush seems determined to return to the Reagan era, when ideologues like James Watt ran the Interior Department and most of the important regulatory jobs were filled with representatives of the businesses being regulated. Nowhere is Mr. Bush's strategy clearer than at Interior, the agency most responsible for protecting the country's natural resources. The department's new deputy secretary, J. Steven Griles, was a top lobbyist for the oil, gas and coal industries, which contributed heavily to Mr. Bush's campaign last year and this year helped shape an energy strategy that would open the public lands to drilling. The new solicitor, William Myers III, was a senior employee of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and represented the nation's grazing interests in lawsuits challenging federal policies that he will now be required to uphold. Bennett Raley, the new assistant secretary for water and science, is likewise a longtime servant of the big landowning and irrigation interests. Lynn Scarlett, the new assistant secretary for policy, was president of the Reason Foundation, a libertarian think tank opposed in principle to most government regulation." NYT ED, 8/19/01
WEEK 30...Bush Rolls Back Medicaid Protections For HMO Buddies
The Bush administration proposed today to roll back some of the protections for Medicaid recipients that President Bill Clinton put in place on the day before he left office in January. The new rules set standards for health maintenance organizations and other managed care plans serving poor people and the disabled under Medicaid. Bush administration officials said they agreed with the intent of Mr. Clinton's rules, but had decided to give states more discretion in deciding how to achieve those goals. Under both sets of rules, Medicaid recipients could appeal the denial or termination of services by a private health plan in which they are enrolled. The Clinton administration said such appeals must be resolved within 30 days. The Bush administration would allow 45 days. In urgent situations, the Clinton administration set a 72-hour deadline for H.M.O.'s to rule on appeals. The Bush administration would allow three working days.... Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California, said, "The Bush administration has taken every opportunity to side with the H.M.O. industry and against Medicaid patients in these regulations." A Medicaid patient who needs a life-saving treatment on Friday might have to wait until the next Wednesday because the "emergency protections don't apply over the weekend," Mr. Waxman said. About half of the 40 million Medicaid recipients are in managed care. Many are heavy users of medical care. They generally do not have the money to go outside the network of doctors and hospitals selected by their health plans." --NYT, 8/17/01
"Last week the House of Representatives passed the "national energy plan" devised by President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and a mysterious roster of "energy consultants" whose names the administration refuses to divulge, even to Congress, Reuters reports. Of course, the bill has squat-all to do with sane and thoughtful policy-making for the 21st century; it's simply a smokescreen for one of the biggest welfare payouts in American history: $33.5 billion in tax breaks and outright cash subsidies to the energy industry - Big Oil, King Coal, Lord Nuke and Mighty Gas. Yes, that's the same energy industry that's already glutted with record-breaking profits - and the same energy industry that pumped $69 million into campaign coffers last year. Most of that patriotic largess went to Republicans, with the oilmen in the White House getting the heftiest share. But there was enough gravy left over for a few key Democrats too - hence the 36 party stalwarts who jumped ship to join the GOP majority in passing the historic boondoggle. This payback for the legalized bribery humorously known as "campaign finance" was cleverly obscured by media hoo-rah over a side issue: opening the Alaskan Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil-and-gas exploration. The House said O.K., but there's little chance the Democratic-controlled Senate will approve any such drilling at all. Both sides know this, but the sideshow allows them to posture for their core supporters while the bill's true goal - massive tax breaks for an already massively wealthy industry - is smuggled into law. It was neatly done, but what else would you expect? These guys are pros - in every sense of the word." --SPT, 8/10/01
"When you got up today and readied yourself for work or rousted the kids from bed, probably the last thing on your mind was the future of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Yet, this federal agency influences the safety of nearly every appliance in your home and most of the tools in your garage -- from your coffee pot to your lawn mower, from your kids' skateboards to the baby's crib. Tuesday, for example, the commission joined with Miami-based Burger King to announce the voluntary recall of 2.6 million toys that can break open, releasing small beads that children can choke on. Once ridiculed as the "little agency that couldn't," because of its anemic regulatory clout, the agency in 18 years has developed more muscle, earning the reluctant respect of manufacturers and the wary support of consumer groups. Now the agency, which has an annual budget of $55 million and a staff of 480, has been thrust into the political limelight in a way it never has been. Consumer groups have denounced President Bush's nomination of Mary Sheila Gall as the agency's new chairwoman, saying she would turn the consumer watchdog into an industry lap dog. Consumers Union, which rarely gets involved in political matters, this week said Gall's leadership would cause the commission to "abdicate its responsibility to protect children." Consumers Union, a nonprofit organization that publishes product reviews in Consumer Reports magazine, joins a coalition of consumer groups that includes the Children's Defense Fund and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. 'We rarely take a position toward a presidential nominee,' said Consumers Union spokesman David Butler. 'But in this case, we decided the nominee was so unsatisfactory we needed to speak out.'" --KCS, 8/2/01
WEEK 27...Bush Rejects Germ-Weapons Controls For Bio-Tech And Drug Corp Backers
"Private industry pressure and President Bush's skeptical attitude toward international agreements sparked the administration's decision, expected to be announced Wednesday, to oppose new treaty language enforcing the international ban on biological weapons. The biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries urged the Bush administration to change or reject draft treaty language that would have allowed for spot inspections of bio-manufacturing plants in countries, including the United States, that are party to the 26-year-old Biological Weapons Convention. That pressure combined with administration opposition to several pacts contributed to the decision, according to interviews with current and former U.S. officials, internal documents and congressional testimony. Bush has drawn international ire with his opposition to the Kyoto Protocol on the environment, the International Criminal Court, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and an international pact against trafficking in small arms. The administration also is re-examining its support of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty barring nuclear weapons tests." --Chicago Tribune, 7/24/01
WEEK 26...Bush Plans To Protect Corp Polluters For 18 Months
"The Bush administration yesterday sought a lengthy delay in adopting a new rule for cleaning up thousands of the country's polluted lakes, rivers and streams while it attempts to rewrite the measure. The rule, drafted by the Clinton administration, has been sharply criticized by conservative Republicans in Congress and challenged in court by utilities, manufacturers and farm groups that say it could force them to spend tens of billions of dollars more annually on water cleanup. Yesterday the Environmental Protection Agency and the Justice Department asked the District of Columbia Circuit Court to postpone action on the legal challenge for 18 months, while the administration reviews the rule and attempts to make it more "workable" and acceptable to critics." --Washington Post, 7/17/01
WEEK 25...Bush And Salvation Army Team Up To Plan Faith-Based Discrimination
"Earlier this week, the Washington Post reported that an internal Salvation Army document spoke of a White House commitment to create the exemption for religious organizations that receive federal funds. And in exchange, according to the document, the Salvation Army would lobby intensively for the president's initiative. The White House and the Salvation Army spent all day Tuesday denying that any such agreement had been made, although a presidential spokesman acknowledged that the request was being considered. By evening, the administration announced that the consideration was over and the request had been rejected. Existing laws allowing religious organizations to discriminate in hiring based on religious beliefs offered sufficient protection, according to White House officials. How those laws will be interpreted and applied once the federal dollars start flowing to religious social programs is exactly what must be sorted out in this very delicate balancing act between church and state. Most laws that prohibit discrimination against homosexuals also exempt religious groups, but whether that exemption stands when the Salvation Army or Catholic Charities or any other faith-based group is hiring for its government-funded drug treatment program is still an open question. If the Salvation Army document was an accurate reflection of reality, then it is very disturbing that the White House would engage in this sort of backroom deal-making, circumventing the congressional processes that are currently working to address this matter." --Post-Gazette, July 13, 2001
WEEK 24...Dr. Strangelove Assures Reporters That ABM Treaty With Russians Won't Be Broken By Bush Until October At The Earliest
The Bush administration intends to break ground in Alaska next month on a missile defense test site and to develop a multi-layered shield that will include ship-launched missiles and lasers mounted on airplanes within four years, senior Pentagon officials said yesterday. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz is scheduled to outline the plan to Congress today. Officials said he would make clear that the administration is moving as fast as possible to build at least rudimentary missile defenses by 2005, regardless of probable objections by Moscow that the United States is violating the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty....Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld described the effort as an ambitious and accelerated testing program, saying the administration has no intention of breaking the 1972 ABM Treaty any time soon."We have every intention of working out an arrangement with the Russians, and I think we will," Rumsfeld told reporters last night. "I can assure you that if the United States of America intended to do something that would violate the treaty in July or August or September, I would know about it.."
"The ABM Treaty allows each side to build one land-based anti-missile system to protect a single city or field of missile silos. Russia has such a system around Moscow, and the United States originally chose to build one around a missile field in Grand Forks, N.D. But the treaty forbids any system intended to defend the entire nation. It also prohibits the development, testing or deployment of sea- or space-based defenses against long-range missiles.Last week, the State Department instructed U.S. embassies around the world to inform foreign governments that the United States plans to test not just land-based interceptor missiles but also "other technologies and basing modes, such as air- and sea-based capabilities" against long-range missiles."As we have informed our allies and Russia, these tests will come into conflict with the ABM Treaty in months, not years," the department said....Although the administration's plan calls for basing five interceptor missiles there and upgrading a "Cobra Dane" radar installation on Shemya Island in Alaska by 2004, Rumsfeld said that none of the work at Fort Greely would violate the ABM Treaty this year. In the past, government lawyers and arms control advocates have offered differing interpretations of what amount of construction would be allowed under the treaty. "As soon as the construction site becomes recognizably a strategic ABM interceptor launcher, it would violate the treaty," John Pike, director of Globalsecurity.org, a defense think tank, said yesterday. Experts also offered various predictions about how Russia would react, but all agreed that the stakes for the administration are high. "I'm sure they will protest it as a violation of the treaty," said Spurgeon M. Keeny Jr., president of the Arms Control Association and an arms control official in the Nixon administration, which negotiated the treaty with Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev." --WP, 7/12/01
WEEK 23 1/2...Bush Policy Is To Prevent UN From Initiating International Small Arms Control
"The US president, George Bush, is about to spark a transatlantic row over a UN conference which opens today aiming to reduce the 500m Kalashnikovs and other small arms contributing to worldwide carnage. Mr Bush has ordered the US delegation to the New York conference to block the main proposals because he fears inflaming the US gun lobby led by the National Rifle Association, one of the most powerful vested interests in the country. Mr Bush is sensitive to the NRA's insistence that international regulations on small arms could infringe the constitutional right in the US to bear arms. His move will anger the EU countries, including Britain, that support the attempt by UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, to bring order to the arms trade. A UN document published for the conference blames small arms for 4m deaths in 46 conflicts since 1990 - about 90% of them civilians, and 80% of them women and children." --Guardian, July 9, 2001
WEEK 23...Japan's Foreign Minister Tanaka Calls Pez Bush "Totally An Asshole"
"On June 17, a day before Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka would be meeting US Secretary of State Collin Powell, Ms. Tanaka visited German Town High School in Philadelphia where she studied for two years when she was a high school student.The alumnae of the high school gave Ms. Tanaka a grand welcome. She enjoyed a class reunion and talking with her old classmates. Ms. Tanaka did not accompany interpreters and stenographers. She made a remark about George Bush during her conversation with her classmates and her words will remain in the history of Japan's foreign ministers. When she entered the library, she sat in the same wooden chair she used when she was a student. She remarked, "I remember the smell of this chair. It has not changed at all." She was deep in sentimental memories of those days. Makiko Tanaka said, 'What I learned at this school was spiritualism based on religion, the principles of a simple life and love as well as peace. I learned how important it is to listen to others and express one's opinion. I have respected this principle throughout my entire life thus far."
"Then, one classmate raised a political issue and said to her, "There is no scientific proof that the earth is warming and no legitimate reason why we need the 'star wars' missile defense system. Don't you think so?" Ms. Tanaka appreciated the question. In response to that question, Japan's Foreign Minister Makiko reportedly said, "I will definitely oppose the new missile defense plan proposed by President Bush. It is beyond my imagination that we need it." Ms. Tanaka's visit to Washington DC was agreed to by the US government after strenuous efforts by the Japanese government. The objective of her trip was to vindicate what she expressed about US foreign policies at meetings with her counterparts from other countries. She conveyed her messages of criticism about the foreign polices of the US government to them. She must have told them faithfully what she believed. Her address immediately caused problems in the Japanese political world.
"During the conversation with her old classmates at the reception in German Town High School, The Weekly Post learned that Ms. Tanaka made a remark about George Bush, "He is totally an asshole" in English. The majority of her classmates seemed to support the Republican Party, however, they were critical about Mr. Bush's new missile defense plan. When Ms. Tanaka made this remark, the classmates in the room were reportedly excited.There has never been a statesman in Japanese history that called a US president, 'an asshole.'" --Weekly Post Editorial, 6/25/01
WEEK 22...Most Americans Think Bush Policies And Positions Are Not Relevant To Their Needs
"President Bush's approval rating has slipped four percentage points since May and many Americans feel he is not addressing the issues they care about most, according to a poll released on Wednesday by the New York Times and CBS news. The poll of 1,005 adults taken June 14-18, shortly after Bush's first visit to Europe since taking office, showed the president's approval rating fell to 53 percent now from 57 percent last month. Only 50 percent of those polled approved of Bush's handling of the economy while 47 percent approved of his foreign policy performance and just 39 percent agreed with his policies on the environment. Some 44 percent felt the U.S. president was not respected by foreign leaders. ``Ratings on Mr. Bush's handling of foreign policy and the environment are also down, half of Americans are uneasy about his ability to deal with an international crisis, and a plurality says the leaders of other countries do not respect him,'' the pollsters said in a comment accompanying the survey. ...Just 25 percent of those polled said Bush was concentrating on the issues that mattered most to them.``A particular problem for Mr. Bush is that the public does not believe the president is concentrating on the right issues,'' the pollsters said. These issues were listed as health-care reform and the economy, followed by Social Security and Medicare. --Reuters, 6/20/01
WEEK 21...agriculture... "DURANGO, Iowa... Dale Leslein is a longtime hog farmer, a Republican who never joined anything, not even the Future Farmers of America when he was in high school. "I bought into the Reagan philosophy of relying on myself and looking to a smaller government and less taxes," said Mr. Leslein, 35, a third- generation hog farmer in this county of lush hills and imposing bluffs rising along the Mississippi River. Then three years ago he heard about a petition to abolish a mandatory fee assessed on hog sales that produces money for advertising pork. Since then, his life has turned upside down. "I hated that pork check-off tax before I heard of the petition," he said. "I was willing to fight tooth and nail to get rid of it." Mr. Leslein broke his lone-wolf habits and started organizing, visiting every hog farmer in Dubuque County, he said, often before dawn to catch his neighbors before they headed out to their fields. His work paid off. This January, his coalition won a national referendum to abolish the assessment; his county came through with a vote of 278 to 19. Then George W. Bush took office — the Republican he had voted for — and the new secretary of agriculture, Ann M. Veneman, overturned the results of the referendum. Ms. Veneman sided with the National Pork Producers Council, the trade association that spends the money from the assessment, holding that the fee should remain in place. She did so without consulting the winning farmers' coalition. "She's not Republican because I've never heard of Republicans who impose a tax after it's voted down in a democratic election," Mr. Leslein said....Wayne Demmer, a hog farmer in Epworth, said he was so angry he got on an airplane for the first time in 30 years and flew to Washington to join a protest and picket outside Ms. Veneman's home. "I've never done anything like that before," Mr. Demmer said. "I was standing with a 60-year-old woman who has been a hog farmer all her life." They distributed leaflets depicting Ms. Veneman as a snake, warning farmers about her "venomous" bite." --NYT, 6/11/01
WEEK 17...gasoline conservation... "The Bush administration is canceling a 2004 deadline for automakers to develop prototype cars that would get up to 80 miles per gallon and could be put into production a few years later. Department of Energy spokesman Joe Davis said that the 2004 deadline for producing a prototype, five-person "supercar" was dead. The department is switching its focus from efficient family sedans to "longer-term technologies" that could be used in all kinds of vehicles, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham told Congress last week. Critics say keeping the 80-m.p.g. goal is important as gas prices soar. "We were on the way to a supercar, and now we're putting that kind of progress at risk at a potentially unfortunate moment when consumers are facing rising gas prices," Dan Reicher, assistant secretary for energy efficiency during the Clinton administration, said. --Phila. Inquirer, 5/14/01
Editorial Policy: All entries are dated and documented as needed.
Text (c) Politex. Permission of author required for reprinting.
Duration of working link not under our control.
Updated daily at various times.
Send all e-mail to Politex.