Bachmann and the EPA
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.