By Charles M. Young
Air pollution kills thousands a year, and Obama has made it worse
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Mike Whitney wrote a great column recently titled "Is It Immoral to Vote for Obama?" Based on Obama's predilection to kill large numbers of people around the Middle East in pursuit of foreign policy objectives, Whitney argued, it would indeed be immoral to vote for him. He isn't the lesser of two evils. He is worse than Bush, which makes him evil, period.
I would argue that it is immoral to vote for Obama because he is guilty of the negligent homicide of 70,000 American citizens every year.
Consider what negligent homicide is. Legally it means that somebody died, and that the defendant should reasonably have been aware of the risk and instead of doing something to stop it, he "intentionally, knowingly or recklessly" acted in such a way that the death occurred.
Ethically, it means that you could have prevented a death at little or no risk to yourself, and you chose not to. It means that if you see a child crawl into a refrigerator and shut the door, and you don't let him out, you bear responsibility for his death.
Now consider what Obama did on September 2. It was Friday before Labor Day, an infamous date almost every year because politicians use it to announce things that make them look bad. Most voters are traveling for the long weekend and aren't paying attention. So just the choice of date proves he was aware that his decision was rotten, just as flight indicates consciousness of guilt.
He announced that day that he would not implement new regulations recommended by his own Environmental Protection Agency that would have cut the amount of smog we all inhale with every breath.
He could have done so on his own authority. The Republicans in Congress did not have to vote on it. Instead of standing with the throngs of environmentalists who voted for him, he said the regulations would be a burden for business and chose to stand with American Petroleum Institute, which gloated that "the President's decision was good news for the economy and Americans looking for work."
How? If the President had gone with the new regulations, it would have cost $19-to-$90 billion, depending on how they were enforced. It would have mandated that energy companies, which are swimming in money, build new cleaner power plants and install scrubbers in the power plants already built. The new regulations would have forced the energy companies to create jobs, not cut them. What could be better for the economy than forcing rich people to give some money to people who want to work?
Ethically, the important thing to remember is this: 70,000 Americans die every year from air pollution. They die of lung cancer and emphysema. They die of heart attacks and strokes that are more likely to occur on hot, high-smog days. They die of other forms of cancer that smog exacerbates.
Nobody disputes the 70,000 figure. It's from the Harvard School of Public Health.
Obama could have cut that number significantly by following the science (which he promised to do in his campaign) and adopting the new regulations. If he had done that, he could have had a big White House ceremony on a day other than Friday before Labor Day and everyone who voted for him in 2008 would have felt more inclined to vote for him again. Instead he chose to insult everyone who voted for him and hand the Republicans a stick to beat him. The $19-to-$90 billion that the energy companies would have had to spend to kill fewer people with their product is $19-to-$90 billion that the Koch brothers and other sociopathic coal barons will have to spend on destroying democracy.
Maybe it's good for the employment rate if 70,000 workers die and 70,000 people who don't have cancer yet take their jobs. Doesn't seem like a big applause line on the campaign trail, though.
"I will continue to stand by the hardworking men and women at the EPA as they strive every day to hold polluters accountable and protect our families from harmful pollution," said Obama.