Monday, October 15, 2012

Ask David McKinley (R-WV) Who's Going To Clean Up The Poop


Unless you're a reader of the Wheeling News-Register you probably missed the report of multimillionaire West Virginia Congressman David McKinley addressing the Wheeling Rotary Club last week. "The federal Environmental Protection Agency is 'one of the biggest threats to our society,' McKinley told his fellow Rotarians on Tuesday." David McKinley, a freshman congressman who's already taken in $3,603,130 and whose biggest source of funding are the polluters who would give anything to kill the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA, keep in mind, doesn't just hug trees; they're charged with keeping our drinking water clean and the air with breath safe, goals McKinley's funders find reprehensible-- since it costs them money to not pollute the air and water and devastate the planet in pursuit of their own private fortunes. And although he's just a freshman, notice who the biggest recipient in Congress of legalistic bribes from the mining interests is. Yes, David McKinley, took in $290,478, even more than Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Cantor. So, sure, to McKinley is a big threat-- to his career.

His opponent this year is Sue Thorn, a grassroots activist who consistently stands up for ordinary working families-- especially mining families-- and not for the big money mine owners. As we've expained before, Steve Israel and the DCCC aren't contesting West Virginia's first CD and is doing nothing at all to help Sue-- after spending millions to elect an especially rabid reactionary, state Senator Mike Oliverio in 2008. Oliverio, whose corruption can be smelled from one end of the state to the other, is the ideal Steve Israel Democratic candidate. He has a long record of shilling for Big Business and Wall Street banksters and prides himself on being virulently anti-Choice and hysterically antigay. He was co-chair of the West Virginia chapter of ALEC and, for some reason Bush publicly thanked him for helping get Sammy Alito confirmed to the Supreme Court. And if you still don't get the point, in 2010 2010, the state GOP chair, Doug McKinney, referred to Oliverio's over-the-edge conservatism by saying, "Sen. Oliverio has always been a conservative guy. He votes with the Republicans on committees. We've joked for years he needs to come over to the party who thinks like he does." Israel's plan is to let McKinley win again this year and then run Oliverio in 2014 (when Obama's name isn't on the ballot). By the way, Nancy Pelosi claims she selected Israel to run the DCCC because of his reptilian nature.

Of course McKinley isn't the only Member of Congress trying to kill the EPA. Almost no Republicans back it and more than a few Blue Dogs and New Dems agree with them. Few people think of Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander as an extremist, but when it comes to environmental safety regulation he is. As Joshua Holland pointed out in his book, The Fifteen Biggest Lies About The Economy, was moved by a very modest climate change proposal to warn that the law, if enacted, would "deliberately kill jobs and make Americans poorer." And, no, that wasn't David McKinley or Michele Bachmann or Jim Inhofe or Louie Gohmert. It was what passes for a mainstream conservative in 2012.
Since global warming became a front-burner issue, conservatives have taken the old argument that environmental protections hurt the economy to dizzying new heights. According to some of the more feverish voices within the movement, it’s not just that protecting the environment comes with painful “unintended consequences.” They argue that the entire point of environmentalism-- and the raison d’être of environmentalists-- is to bring capitalism to its knees.

No, really. Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), who called the science of global warming the “greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people,” put it best when he argued that “the real purpose” of the Kyoto Climate Accord was not to curb carbon emissions but to “harm Americans, especially the poor and minorities, causing higher energy prices, reduced economic growth, and fewer jobs.” Longtime Alaska representative Don Young went a step further. “Environmentalists,” he told Alaska Public Radio, “are a socialist group of individuals... I’m proud to say that they are my enemy. They are not Americans, never have been Americans, never will be Americans.”

Yet it was Jeffrey Kuhner, an entertainingly unhinged columnist for the right-wing Washington Times, who best spelled out this fascinating conspiracy theory in a column titled A Convenient Lie. “Radical environmentalists,” he wrote, “are forging a new socialist post-democracy that is slowly undermining representative government.” He continued, "The myth of global warming along with the Environmental Protection Agency have become the hammer and sickle of eco-Marxism-- the new green-red alliance that seeks to destroy capitalism and the sovereign nation-state.”

Again, this dark conspiracism is simply the logical extension of the long standing conservative argument that environmental regulations impose crushing costs on businesses.

Nobody disagrees that protecting the environment comes at a cost to firms’ bottom lines. To the degree that they can, these businesses pass some of those costs on to consumers. But after that, anything that hurts a company’s profit margins can certainly impact the growth of a business and limit new hires.

Yet that entire narrative asks you to look at only one side of the ledger. It’s a big lie of omission. What they don’t tell you is that environmental regulations are necessary for the free market to function. Without them, polluters can impose massive costs on the rest of society in order to derive a tidy profit for themselves. Robust environmental protections fix a significant “market failure,” and even the most devout worshippers of Randian economics acknowledge that addressing market distortions is an appropriate role for the government. For many years, this has been the central progressive argument: that you have to count the external costs of underregulation as a kind of hidden tax that we all end up paying. Strong environmental protections force polluters themselves to absorb the costs of whatever damage they cause. It’s really the “free market” way.

In recent years, progressives have also turned the environment versus jobs narrative on its head. Transitioning to a new, more sustainable, green economy, they argue, will not only protect the delicate rose of capitalism for future generations, it’ll represent a new source of economic growth in the twenty-first century, creating millions of high-paying green jobs for industrious Americans.

I have a puppy named Daisy. She poops, and I clean up after her. It’s the right thing to do. She’s my puppy, I feed her, I enjoy her company, and if I don’t pick up her leavings, then either someone else has to do it or my neighbors will end up paying a price. It would be great to live in a society where everyone routinely did the right thing, but that’s not realistic. Picking up after one’s dog is pretty gross, and some people simply don’t want to do it. So my city, like most, mandates it, and if I don’t do the right thing, then I risk a penalty, a fine.

At the heart of environmental economics is a basic question: what happens with the poop of our industrialized society? Will the dog owners of corporate America clean it up on their own dime or will the rest of us be forced to make a choice between hiring someone to pick up the crap or stepping in it when we sally forth? In economic terms, if they don’t clean up after themselves, we as a society pay an externalized cost. It’s a market failure because we’re not part of the decision-making process. We can’t make a rational cost-benefit analysis weighing the burden of regulation against the pollution costs of an industrial activity. And because we-- rather than the firms that pollute-- bear much of the costs for the damage they do, the polluters themselves don’t weigh the costs and benefits accurately either.

The World Bank notes, “The effects of pollution can generally be classified into four major categories: health impacts, direct and indirect effects on productivity, effects on the ecosystem, and aesthetic effects.” The World Bank authors continued, "For example, a factory may emit soot that dirties surrounding buildings, increasing maintenance costs. The higher maintenance costs are a direct result of the factory’s use of a resource-- air-- that from the plant’s point of view is free but that has a cost to society."

The World Bank, which was not populated by dirty socialists when I last checked, concluded with a commonsense statement that the Corporate Right refuses to acknowledge: “Such externalities are real costs and benefits attributable to the project and should be included” in the cost-benefit analysis every time.

Progressives favor robust environmental protections not to undermine capitalism or hurt businesses, but to force firms to “internalize” those externalities. We want those regulations for the same reason that most communities require dog owners to pick up their own poop: it’s not only the neighborly thing to do, but it’s also fundamentally wrong for people to get to enjoy playing with their cute little puppies while the rest of us have to pay the street-cleaners’ overtime.

...Progressives have promoted the creation of green jobs not only to protect the environment, but also to disprove the claim that we have to sacrifice prosperity to protect our ecosystem.

The idea, broadly speaking, is to transform our carbon-based economy to one that is run on clean and sustainable power; it would include increasing our energy efficiency and cutting down on our waste. And it would require a lot of work, from manufacturing new and cleaner technologies to upgrading our electrical network with “smart grid” technology. It would create jobs, lessen our dependence on oil (domestic as well as foreign), and reduce climate-changing emissions before it’s too late. Economist Robert Pollin and his colleagues at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst estimated that 1.7 million net new jobs could be created in just two years with an investment of $150 billion in new green infrastructure-- less than the average cost of keeping troops in Iraq for the same amount of time. They identified six areas that are ripe for investment: retrofitting buildings, expanding mass transit and freight rail, building a smart electric grid, and investing in wind power, solar power, and next-generation biofuels. I can’t think of anyone anywhere on the political spectrum who believes these things are bad. Conservatives simply think that the private sector will get us there on its own, eventually, and it’s true that many firms are investing in new technologies for the green market.

The question is: how long would the private sector take? Today, clean and sustainable energy technologies are far more expensive than burning coal or gas and will continue to be in the immediate future. In 2008, the European Commission did a study of the costs of generating electricity using various technologies. With today’s fuel prices, the cost of a megawatt-hour is as follows: gas goes for 50–75 euros; oil costs between 95 and 125 euros, and coal is a bargain at 40–55. But biomass energy costs 80–195 euros, wind goes for between 75 and 140, hydropower costs as much as 215 euros, and solar costs between 170 and 880 euros for a megawatt-hour. (Nuclear energy is cheap, and its lobbyists have pushed it as a green energy source; the problem is they still don’t know what to do with the radioactive waste.

So an efficient green economy that frees us from our dependence on fossil fuels is a good that most of us want, but the private sector won’t be able to deliver it as soon as we’d like. It’s a classic place for the government to intervene. And governments around the world, including our own, are doing just that. Yet it’s also a race, and whichever economy leads that race will have a real advantage-- with more leading-edge technology and a large market share-- for decades to come.

Big Oil, however, with its fingers deep into congressional pockets, wants to drill, baby, drill-- and it can rely on “free market” rhetoric to make it happen. Consider a case in point: the planned Cape Wind offshore energy project miles off the coast of Cape Cod. The “wind farm,” with 130 high-tech turbines, is expected to create 1,000 jobs during the construction phase and 150 permanent new positions on Cape Cod and the surrounding islands. It will also generate 420 megawatts of power, enough to meet 75 percent of the needs of Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and the surrounding islands.

It faced stiff opposition, ostensibly of the Not In My Backyard variety from residents who thought the wind turbines would be an eyesore and ruin their ocean views (the late Senator Ted Kennedy, sadly, was part of the effort to kill the project). But Forbes noted where a good chunk of the money behind the campaign was coming from. William Koch, an oil mogul and one of the most prominent conservative philanthropists in the United States, had put up $1.5 million to oppose the wind farm. Forbes noted the “irony” of his opposition: "Koch, through his Oxbow Group ($1.5 billion sales), had once made a mint off eco-friendly power plants by using laws that required power companies to buy Koch’s power for above-market rates. He sold them for $660 million in 2000. But, alas, he now says the project’s economics, requiring heavy government subsidies, don’t add up."

Subsidies, of course, are the only way that moving to clean, renewable energy in the near future does “add up.” Phillip Warburg and Susan Reid of the Conservation Law Foundation responded to the claim by stating the obvious. “Federal and state subsidies for renewable energy projects,” they wrote, “have been created for the express purpose of helping wind and other forms of clean energy compete with long-subsidized conventional fuels, such as coal and oil, as well as nuclear power.”
Oh... and John Shimkus (R-IL), the congressman who allowed Mark Foley to have his way with the pages, is even crazier than David McKinley when it comes to coal.

UPDATE: Who Is Bob Murray And Why Does He Want To Buy A West Viirginia Congressional Seat For David McKinley?

Perhaps you've heard something about a coal baron accused of pressuring his employees to vote for his pet congresscreep. The coal baron is murderer Bob Murray and his pet congresscreep is David McKinley (R-WV).
One of Congressman David McKinley's biggest backers stands accused of breaking campaign finance laws by pressuring his employees to donate. Last month, coal baron Bob Murray, CEO of Murray Energy, drew fire for forcing his miners to attend a Republican rally without pay. Now a complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission charges that Murray routinely pressured his white-collar workers to give to candidates and his political action committee.

The New Republic published company fundraising memos, and staff writer Alec MacGillis says they were confirmed by sources inside Murray's mining empire.

"They were expected to give. They were expected to give to the PAC, as a deduction from their paycheck. Typically, 1 percent of their pay would go to the PAC. They were also expected to give to Mr. Murray's separate personal fundraisers."

MacGillis says his sources were afraid to reveal their names. But he says they and the memos describe relentless fundraising coercion, often including thinly veiled threats. He says his sources also told him that at least some of the money was essentially coming from the company itself, laundered through an employee bonus program.

"Their understanding that they got from their superiors was that this would be made up to them. The sense that my sources had was that the discretionary part of the bonus was to some degree dependent on their participating."

Campaign finance watchdogs in West Virginia say the charges against Murray are particularly important because of his history. Julie Archer is project manager for the West Virginia Citizen Action Group. She says Murray uses his donations to build political connections, which he in turn uses to fight enforcement of federal environmental and mine-safety laws. She alleges that Murray has threatened Mine Safety and Health Administration officials who were investigating his mines.

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