I’ll say it again. When progressives and conservatives talk about jobs, we are not talking about the same thing. Nor do we talk about jobs for the same reasons, it seems. The more I watch the ongoing floor debate in the House, over the nearly 600 amendments to Continuing Resolution (H.R.1) to fund the federal government through September — only one of which was explicitly concerned with jobs — the more obvious this seems.
When Republicans talk about jobs, it’s just another means of remaking our economy to resemble those of the countries to which we export most of our jobs and from which we import most of our goods.
I’d been listening to the debate all day yesterday, when my ears perked up when I heard a Republican mention the J-Word. It was 4:00 p.m., and the debate had turned to Amendment No. 165, presented by Rep. John Carter (R, TX-31).
None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to implement, administer, or enforce the rule entitled ‘‘National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants From the Portland Cement Manufacturing Industry and Standards of Performance for Portland Cement Plants’’ published by the Environmental Protection Agency on September 9, 2010 (75 Fed. Reg. 54970 et seq.).
You can find the rule posted here on the EPA website, at the top of a table that serves as a timeline of it’s development, beginning with it’s proposal in March 1998 and ending with the it’s finalization in September of 2010. The short version is that after 12 years and four lawsuits, the EPA finally set down rules concerning how much mercury and other pollutants cement manufacturing plants can emit, due to concerns about the health impact of mercury pollution.
EarthJustice, which has campaigned to reduce mercury pollution, has a list of background resources on cement plants, including a direct rebuttal to Rep. Carter: "Dirty Air Is Not the Key to Economic Growth." (PDF)
Rep. Henry Waxman (D, CA) rose next, in defense of the EPA rule and in opposition to Carter’s amendment.
Here’s one of the kids Waxman was talking about.
I’ll skip the rest of the back and forth. You can follow the transcript, as well as watch the proceedings, at C-SPAN.
As I listened to the exchange, it sounded like the whole thing boiled down to a false choice: Kill jobs or kill kids. But I think Rep. Ed Markey (D, MA-7) got it about right when he said the amendment was an attempt to "put a pair of Portland cement shoes for the EPA."
So this is a concrete example of what the Republican majority is now trying to do. This is kind of a regulatory earmark for a single industry, aimed at giving it the right to pollute, to send mercury into our atmosphere, and ultimately into the bodies of the children of our country when we know that thousands of them are going to die from the consumption of that mercury and that thousands more will have an aggravation of asthma, which they already have. The same thing will be true for senior citizens. Yet they’re over here and are almost ignoring the health care impacts on families in our country.
We have people all across the country who are now going through food stores, looking to find what the mercury count is in the food which they’re purchasing for their families. Instead, what the majority wants to do here today is to put a pair of Portland cement shoes on the EPA and then throw it into the river. And if the EPA doesn’t die from drowning, the mercury is going to kill it. That’s ultimately what the impact is going to be of this amendment.
I’d take it a bit further. It’s not just the EPA being fitted for a pair of cement shoes. It’s cement shoes for workers, their families and communities, and the economy as well.
As I listened to the entire debate, not one of the GOP representatives who spoke offer their own solutions to the problems the EPA rule is intended to address. Their narrow focus on defunding its implementation and enforcement allowed them to repeat the same talking points and the same complaints against the EPA over and over again. But no Republican speaker offered any alternative except for the EPA to "start over" (a familiar refrain from the health care reform debate), because the 12-year process of getting to the present rule "rigorous" or thorough enough. In the meantime, well, there would be no rule, and no limit on emissions.
What of the health effects of mercury pollution? What about sick children? Carter expressed sympathy with the plight of sick children, but quickly returned to two very telling talking points.
Carter returned to his map and his talking point about the percentage of mercury pollution he says comes from outside the U.S. I don’t know what his source for that information was, and thus don’t know how true his claim is. But as, as Rep. Waxman pointed out, "If some of the pollution is coming from offshore, from China, which is true, that’s no excuse for us to allow more pollution to come from the sources here in the United States."
Carter sounded like a petulant teenager complaining that "all the other kids parents let them do it."
Waxman sounded almost like a parent replying with, "I don’t care what the other kids do. I don’t have any say in what they do. They have their rules, and we have ours."
What was more telling was Carter’s repeated claim (repeated other GOP speakers) that the EPA rule will "kill jobs," by causing factories to close and jobs to move overseas.
To me, I wonder how that balances out to make good sense for those poor sick kids that he was talking about. We’re adding more pollution to the unregulated, full-scale polluters, and we’re harming and taking American jobs, the fathers and mothers of those very children he was talking about. They’re no longer going to have a job and somebody in China or India is going to have that job. And I think the American people are pretty fed up with us trying to constantly ship good American jobs overseas.
I hear my friends talk about, we are outsourcing. This is a form of outsourcing by regulating us out of business and sending those jobs over to where they open with open arms and no regulations and lower wages, come on in, make your cement, we’ll ship it back to the United States and use that New York terminal to bring it into the United States.
To hear the GOP suddenly express concern the off-shoring of jobs is almost amusing. We lost 6 million manufacturing jobs in the last decade, and more than 42,400 factories since George W. Bush took office in 2001. Republicans had ten years to notice what off-shoring was doing to workers and the economy and do something about it. They didn’t. (And no, tax cuts don’t count.)
Like the clear results on a pH test strip, the vote in the U.S. Senate this week on the Creating American Jobs and Ending Off-Shoring Act showed Republicans’ true color: Red. Red for China.
Or Mexico. Or Indonesia. Or anywhere multi-national corporations get tax breaks for exporting American jobs. In this test of loyalty, every Republican in the Senate voted for corporate greed over American workers.
No fluke, this is a GOP pattern. The red party has consistently sided with giant corporations to the detriment of the American economy and American workers. In voting against health care reform, Republicans chose giant health insurance corporations over uninsured Americans. In opposing financial reform, Republicans embraced Wall Street over the taxpayers who bailed out the big banks and don’t want to do it again.
Republicans vainly attempted to rationalize those votes as opposing government regulation. There’s no regulation issue in the Creating American Jobs and Ending Off-Shoring Act.
That Act would have removed tax incentives the U.S. government gives corporations to close domestic factories, fire American workers and move production overseas. And, conversely, the Act would have instituted tax cuts for corporations that return foreign employment to U.S. soil.
Every Republican in the Senate voted against the Act. They voted to continue forcing Americans to give tax breaks to corporations that ship jobs overseas during the worst recession since the Great Depression. The GOP said it is right and proper for U.S. citizens to subsidize corporate killing of American manufacturing. And Republicans said it would be wrong to do the opposite — to use tax breaks to encourage corporations to restore off-shored jobs to the U.S.
That shouldn’t come as a surprise, though. Republicans know what side their bread is buttered on. Republicans aren’t opposed to off-shoring because they get a lot of money from the Chamber of Commerce. (More than three times as much as Democrats in the 2010 cycle, according to Open Secrets.) The Chamber of Commerce is a big fan of off-shoring, because it’s funded by top off-shoring companies.
What’s the GOP alternative to off-shoring? Carter, and the Republicans who spoke in favor of his amendment offered an alternative, probably without really meaning to.
Basically, America is losing jobs because corporations close their factories and open up shop in countries with "no regulations and lower wages." So to prevent that, rather than remove the tax incentives for corporations to close factories (because in GOP speak that would be a "tax increase"), the GOP solution is to make here more like there, by getting rid of regulations and lowering wages here.
Laura Flanders sees where this is headed.
“We need better intelligence, the kind that is derived not from intercepting a president’s phone calls to his mistress but from hanging out with the powerless.”
That was one of columnist Nicholas Kristof’s lessons for U.S. foreign policy drawn from Egypt’s revolution. In the New York Times this weekend he pointed out that American journalists and foreign policy experts alike missed the warning signs of what was coming in Egypt in part because they talk to the wrong people. Aha. That’s not exactly a revelation to consumers of independent media.
…It’s not just revolutions in far off places that we miss when reporters ignore the everyday working people, though. Another piece in the very same paper on the very same day examined the consequences of this country’s outsourcing-only manufacturing policy. The question raised there was pretty fundamental. It went to the entire justification for globalization.
We’ve been told that going global serves American interests because increased profits produce innovation, creativity, and investment in new improved products. Right?
…When great products of American innovation are made not here but there — Americans are a world away. Aren’t the innovations that will bring us the next iPads and iPhones, for example (manufactured entirely in Asia,) mostly likely going to come from people who spend their time actually making those things?
American workers are not the "powerless" exactly in Kristof’s sense of the word. But if policy makers keep not listening, down the road, they certainly could become just that. Things are going that way.
The trip from "there" to here is not fast or easy, but the GOP is clearly steering the country in that direction. The Carter amendment and the rest of the budget debate is one sign of that.
Wisconsin is another.
But, as I said yesterday, Wisconsin may be a sign that Americans may put o the brakes and turn the country around, rather than win the race to the bottom … with the help of our cement shoes.