Monday, June 20, 2011

Freedom=right to pollute

A Mercatus Institute study lists South Dakota as the second, Montana as the 29th, and Wyoming as the 22nd freest states. Never mind that the research was conducted by a so-called "Libertarian" think-tank. David Montgomery described the results in the Rapid City Journal with an accompanying photo of a tribal member from Sisseton holding a flag:
South Dakota received top marks for "economic freedom," which the Mercatus Center defined as low taxes, low government spending and low regulation. But South Dakota trailed in "personal freedom," a combination of factors including regulations of alcohol and tobacco, seat-belt laws, cellphone driving bans and arrests for drug use, prostitution and other categories the Mercatus Center terms "victimless crimes." Gov. Dennis Daugaard's spokesman, Tony Venhuizen, praised the ranking.
The article set off alarm bells for former South Dakotan, Donald Pay, who responded in the comments of the RCJ piece:
DM,

You call this a libertarian outfit, but just a couple of mouse clicks and you can find out that the Mercatus Center was founded and funded by the Koch Brothers, and receives money from Exxon Mobil and other multinational corporations. Hmmm, I wonder what interests the big fossil fuel industry has in promoting lax regulation. A bigger story awaits you. Also, this study is an exhibit of the way multi-national corporations utilize university-based think tanks and "centers" to manipulate the press and the public. Is this playing out at South Dakota universities? Would a neutral researcher come to a similar conclusion?
And, in response to an anonymous red stater rushing to defend police oppression in South Dakota, Pay says:
Why would anyone care that a Koch funded outfit might be trying to butter up SD politicians with sweet talk about lax regulations? Oh, I don't know. Maybe the Keystone Pipeline might factor in there somehow. Politicians eat this stuff up, as evidenced by statements by the Governor's mouthpiece. Of course, the politicians end up having to live up to being a doormat, selling out the state's interests, while the state's citizens suffer.
The Casper Star-Trib defended Wyoming's apparent hypocrisy:
Part of the reason that Wyoming fell from 15th in the 2009 study to 21st this year has to do with Wyoming’s economic reliance on energy production, said Texas State University political science professor William Ruger, who co-authored the study. For one thing, Wyoming has an unusually large public sector compared to other states, he said. In 2010, there were 328 state and local government employees for every 1,000 private-sector workers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Meanwhile, Dan Neal, director of the Equality State Policy Center, a Laramie-based liberal think tank, was more skeptical of the study’s findings. “I guess I don’t know what they’re talking about,” he said. “I didn’t wake up the morning the report came out and feel like, ‘Gee, I’m much less free today.’”
The states appearing at the top of this study are among the most polluted: Indiana, Idaho, and New Hampshire are even bigger chemical toilets than South Dakota is. Montana and Wyoming have epic pollution problems, too.

The EPA is still trying to make up for its public relations challenges by holding industrial agriculture to the fire. From Sierra Crane-Murdoch in High Country News' the Goat Blog:
This time last year, Steve Owens of the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention issued a “challenge” to major industry trade associations. First, he asked that CBI claims be made more prudently in the future, “only when absolutely necessary.” Second, he asked companies to sift through their stacks of CBI claims granted in the past, and declassify all those that are no longer necessary. The letter reads like an invitation to sign a college honor code. But it’s been somewhat successful: chemical companies voluntarily declassified many of the chemicals the EPA disclosed this month. As for those who didn’t volunteer, the EPA politely informed them that their chemicals were no longer protected under TSCA and would soon be made public. The declassification puts only a small dent in the 17,000 undisclosed chemicals on the EPA’s toxic substances inventory.
See the connection? The EPA flexes We the People muscle and fascism responds with a study decrying states for selling out to safe water, safe food, safe shelter, and safe sex for cheap water, cheap food, cheap shelter and cheap sex.

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