A Philosopher's Blog

Bachmann and the EPA

Posted in Business, Environment, Ethics, Law, Medicine/Health, Philosophy, Politics by Michael LaBossiere on August 31, 2011
Environmental journalism supports the protecti...

Job killer?

Michelle Bachmann was recently in Florida and she made a few interesting claims.

One claim is that radical environmentalists are preventing the United States from tapping its energy resources, thus forcing us to “beg” for energy. There are a few problems with this claim. First, radical environmentalists hardly seem to be a major power in American politics. Unless, of course, “radical environmentalist” is defined in a very broad way.  Second, even if it is assumed that radical environmentalists are a major power in current politics, this does not explain why we faced the same energy problems during the Bush years. Unless, of course, the radicals were a great power even then and were able to hold sway over congress and the president. Third, some of the main challenges to securing some sources of energy are technical and economical. For example, processing oil shale has not always been very cost effective.

That said, all of these points can be countered. Once we have a neutral and appropriate definition of “radical environmentalist”, it will be possible to start sorting out their role in this matter. Perhaps they do truly hold sway in this country and perhaps whereas no one else (not even Dick Cheney) has been able to stand against them, Michelle Bachmann will be able to render them powerless or at least weaken them.

Bachmann also said that she would eliminate the EPA, in part to defeat the radical environmentalists. This is justified, as she seems to see it, on two grounds. Firs, as noted above, the EPA is supposed to be in the service of radical environmentalists who have, for some reason, locked up America’s energy. Getting rid of the EPA will, presumably, allow that energy to be exploited. Second, this lock down is supposed to cost America jobs.

She is somewhat right about this. Without an EPA to regulate things like air quality, water pollutants, radiation levels, and other such things, energy sources will be far easier to exploit. Imagine, for example, if a coal company did not need to worry at all about the impact of strip mining coal and the nature and volume of toxins that it released into the environment. Imagine, as another example, if oil companies did not need to worry about what oil spills would do to the coasts of America or what the emissions from oil products might do to humans and animals. Free from such restraints, they would be able to produce more energy and make more profits. These might (or might not) lead to more jobs. Of course, there would be a price for this-a price that everyone else would pay. After all, there are good reasons Nixon established the EPA.

This is, of course, a matter of value: would more energy be worth the environmental impact? I am inclined to believe that regulation of such things is generally good for the country. To use an analogy, food companies could tap all sorts of food resources if they did not need to worry about regulations regrading such things as consumer health and safety. Similarly for drug companies. They could peddle snake oil, just like was done in the old days.  A lack of regulation would certainly open things up. However, history shows clearly what happens when people are free to do as they will when it comes to such things. As such, I am inclined to favor keeping the EPA. I do not, of course, think that the EPA is perfect and it should be subject to criticism.

Bachmann also claimed that the corporate income tax needs to be lowered. Her argument is the stock one: this must be done because companies are leaving the US to take advantage of the lower taxes overseas. However, as I have argued in earlier posts, this argument is fairly weak because its key premise is rather questionable. American companies pay little (or no) taxes here and hence the tax savings are most likely not the main cause of their departure.

A more plausible reason is that companies can pay far lower wages in many places overseas. There is also the fact that other countries often let companies get away with things that would not be tolerated here. As such, the most effective ways to lure jobs back here would seem to be to lower wages and lift regulations. That is, transform the United States into a third world country (at least in certain respects). Getting rid of the EPA would be a good first step in this process.  Bachmann, of course, did not want to say that she would lower the minimum wage. However, she was not willing to say that she would not.

AP/The Huffington Post) POINCIANA, Fla. — Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann claims the U.S. has more energy resources than any other country but isn’t exploiting them because of radical environmentalists.

Bachmann says with shale oil, natural gas and coal, the United States shouldn’t be “begging” others for oil and energy supplies.

She said “we are the king daddy dogs when it comes to energy.” But she says environmentalists are preventing resources from being tapped.

As president, Bachmann said she would unlock those resources and eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency.

“The radical environmentalists have demanded that we lock up all our energy resources,” she added. “President Bachmann will take that key out of the door. I will unlock it.”

The crowd at the upscale retirement community cheered wildly.

And Bachmann got a similar reception when she promised to eliminate the “job killing” Environmental Protection Agency, saying that she would close the agency down in a single trip. “We will turn out the lights and we’ll lock the doors,” she said.

Bachmann spoke at a town hall meeting in a central Florida retirement community Saturday.

Speaking in Jacksonville one day earlier, the Minnesota congresswoman told supporters at a packed sandwich shop that the corporate income tax needs to be reduced because companies are moving to other countries to save money. She was later asked by a reporter whether changes to the minimum wage should also be considered to balance the cost of labor here and overseas.

“I’m not married to anything. I’m not saying that’s where I’m going to go,” she said.

She did say she wants to look at all aspects of doing business, from regulations to tax codes, and will consider anything that will help create jobs. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.

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10 Responses

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  1. eyeonwales said, on August 31, 2011 at 6:35 am

    This does seem to be a policy largely built around a second hand hearing/chinese whispers version of the Simpsons Movie plot – the terrifying threat of EPA!

  2. T. J. Babson said, on August 31, 2011 at 7:05 am

    It is probably worth noting that each state has its own mini version of the EPA.

    It is probably also worth noting that by classifying CO2 as a pollutant, the EPA has equated the simple act of breathing with polluting.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on September 1, 2011 at 3:39 pm

      What does Bachmann say about these mini-EPAs?

      True, we do expel CO2. However, this does not mean that it is not a pollutant (our own exhalations can kill us). However, pollution is measured by volume, etc. so breathing is not taken to be an actual act of pollution (in a legal sense).

  3. Anonymous said, on August 31, 2011 at 8:45 am

    Does he fact that CO2 is part of every breath we take prove that CO2 should not be classified as a pollutant?
    Does the fact that CO2 is part of “the simple act of breathing” justify ignoring the very real effects of the CO2 that is emitted from vehicles, factories, appliances.. .?

  4. dhammett said, on August 31, 2011 at 8:48 am

    Does he fact that CO2 is part of every breath we take prove that CO2 should not be classified as a pollutant?
    Does the fact that CO2 is part of “the simple act of breathing” justify ignoring the very real effects of the CO2 that is emitted from vehicles, factories, appliances.. .?
    And worth noting is CO2’s role in acid rain:

    http://en.bestpicturesof.com/pictures_of_acid%20rain%20effects

    • dhammett said, on August 31, 2011 at 8:50 am

      Sorry about that 8:45 post.

  5. T. J. Babson said, on August 31, 2011 at 8:54 pm

    “American companies pay little (or no) taxes here…”

    True for some: “The most egregious example is General Electric. Last year the conglomerate generated $10.3 billion in pretax income, but ended up owing nothing to Uncle Sam. In fact, it recorded a tax benefit of $1.1 billion.”

    But not for others: “ExxonMobil in its 2009 annual report to the SEC, recorded a larger income tax expense than any other U.S. company last year, some $17.6 billion, or 47% of pretax earnings.”

    http://www.forbes.com/2010/04/01/ge-exxon-walmart-business-washington-corporate-taxes_print.html

    Guess which CEO is buddies with Obama?

    • T. J. Babson said, on August 31, 2011 at 9:15 pm

      Warren Buffett’s company doesn’t like taxes either. Another pal of Obama.

      A little over two weeks ago, Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett, the third-richest person in the world, penned an op-ed critical of the low tax rates for the superrich. It would seem his own company hasn’t prioritized paying its rightful share in a timely fashion either.

      Berkshire Hathaway, the eighth-largest public company in the world according to Forbes, openly admits to still owing taxes for years 2002 through 2004 and 2005 through 2009, according to the New York Post. The company says it expects to “resolve all adjustments proposed by the US Internal Revenue Service” within the next year.

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/29/warren-buffett-taxes-berkshire-hathaway_n_941099.html

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on September 1, 2011 at 3:28 pm

      Ah, in Washington it is always business as usual.

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