Breathing used to be a non-partisan issue. Here's what changed.
Photo Credit: via YouTube
November 28, 2014
when did breathing clean air become so politicized? It predates
President Obama's recent attempts to install regulations to curb ozone
emissions, but not by that much. Paul Krugman takes up the truly bizarre
Republican opposition to even the most tepid attempts to protect the
environment in Friday's column
and digs deeper to find the root cause. Of course, polluters will
defend their right to pollute, he points out, but why can they always
depend on Republican support?
Some background from Krugman:
It wasn’t always thus. The Clean Air Act of 1970, the legal basis for the Obama administration’s environmental actions
passed the Senate on a bipartisan vote of 73 to 0, and was signed into
law by Richard Nixon. (I’ve heard veterans of the E.P.A. describe the
Nixon years as a golden age.) A major amendment of the law, which among
other things made possible the cap-and-trade system that limits acid
rain, was signed in 1990 by former President George H.W. Bush.
that was then. Today’s Republican Party is putting a conspiracy
theorist who views climate science as a “gigantic hoax” in charge of the
Senate’s environment committee. And this isn’t an isolated case.
Pollution has become a deeply divisive partisan issue.
The Republicans have moved to the right of Nixon and Bush. That's part of it, but, again, why?
in politics is part of the answer, no doubt. Mega polluters like the
Koch brothers pour mega doses of cash into politics, and while it used
to flow to both parties, it goes "overwhelmingly in one direction"
today. What changed? Rabid anti-government, pro-market ideology is part
of the answer. Krugman peels the onion further to conclude that this
pernicious ideology is just "a symptom of the underlying cause of the
divide: rising inequality
The basic story of political polarization over the past
few decades is that, as a wealthy minority has pulled away economically
from the rest of the country, it has pulled one major party along with
it. True, Democrats often cater to the interests of the 1 percent, but
Republicans always do. Any policy that benefits lower- and middle-income
Americans at the expense of the elite — like health reform, which
guarantees insurance to all and pays for that guarantee in part with
taxes on higher incomes — will face bitter Republican opposition.
the environment has become a class issue, in part. Everyone breathes,
but only the super-wealthy own huge amount of stock in coal companies.
In the case of the new ozone plan, the E.P.A.’s analysis suggests
for the average American, the benefits would be more than twice the
costs. But that doesn’t necessarily matter to the nonaverage American
driving one party’s prior
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