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Jan. 30, 2014 by Sidney Shapiro

A Turning of the Tide? More Belief in Government, Less Blind Faith in Markets

Suddenly politics in this country appears to have taken a turn toward democracy and away from markets.

As we develop in a book just published by Oxford University Press, discussing economic inequality. Regulation of Wall Street proceeds apace after the investment banks and mortgage lenders sank the American economy with their recklessness as they now write multi-billion dollar checks for their malfeasance. If indeed the tide has turned, the country is emerging from a cycle deemphasizing government that dates back to the election of Ronald Reagan.  

It is too early to know for sure whether the country will once again embrace government as leader and partner in order to address pressing problems that markets have caused or are unable to address.  Certainly the poisoning of drinking water in Charleston, West Virginia, the latest highly visible crisis attributable to the failure to engage in effective regulation, should help add momentum. But Tea Party-backed governors and legislatures are still in control in many of the states, and they’re so eager to please the right-wing constituencies that they’ve turned back federal dollars that would pay for health insurance for their poorest, uninsured citizens. (Although, to be fair, we are starting to …

Jan. 27, 2014 by Joseph Tomain
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Recently, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a report entitled Energy Works for US: Solutions for America’s Energy Future.  The data and references in the report are largely accurate, as far as they go, and the report promotes energy efficiency, which is a welcome step.  Ultimately, though, the report is unreliable because it has too narrow a vision of the energy future.  It inaccurately characterizes government regulation and neglects the environmental consequences surrounding the production, use, consumption, and disposal of our energy resources.  Instead, Energy Works is more of a political polemic rather than a useful white paper.  While it may well serve the Chamber’s political agenda, Energy Works for US fails to recognize the complexities and challenges necessary to fashion our energy future.

Our energy future is as important a policy matter as any that now confronts the United States. Any discussion of …

Jan. 22, 2014 by James Goodwin
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It’s time to put to bed an unfortunate myth that’s been floating around the last few weeks.  The myth goes something like this:  The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA)—the opaque bureau within the White House charged with approving agencies’ draft regulations before they can be released to the public—has succeeded in improving the timeliness of its reviews during the last few months.  OIRA has long been a roadblock to the successful implementation of critical safeguards, so if true, this claim would be welcome news.  But, when OIRA’s recent record is viewed with a more critical eye, this claim simply does not hold up.

While it’s true that OIRA has recently cleared its docket of several high profile draft rules that have been stuck there for several months or even years, in many cases OIRA has done so by relying …

Jan. 22, 2014 by Rena Steinzor
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As people across the country and around the world watched the tableau of 300,000 West Virginians give up their drinking, cooking and bath water for days on end because an untested toxic chemical was spilled by a company that was co-founded by a twice-convicted felon, the ever-present John Boehner (R-Ohio) had pungent advice for President Barack Obama.  “We have enough regulations on the books.  And what the administration ought to be doing is actually doing their jobs.  Why wasn't this plant inspected since 1991?” he declared.   “I am entirely confident that there are ample regulations already on the books to protect the health and safety of the American people.  Someone ought to be held accountable here.”

Consistency, of course, is the hobgoblin of small minds and, unfortunately, no member of the media thought to ask Speaker Boehner whether sequestration and other merciless budget cuts might …

Jan. 20, 2014 by Noah Sachs
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In the wake of the toxic chemical spill in Charleston, West Virginia that contaminated the city’s water supply, citizens across the country are wondering if it could happen to them.

Given gaps in our environmental and chemical regulation regime, the answer is a resounding yes.   For the past year, I’ve been investigating problems of chemical storage and contamination in Virginia, and this week, the University of Richmond School of Law released a new report authored by me and law student Ryan Murphy, “A Strategy to Protect Virginians from Toxic Chemicals.”  

This report is the first comprehensive study of chemical dangers in the Commonwealth and calls for major reforms.

Virginia has a self-image as a pristine, primarily agricultural state but we found that Virginians are subjected to a wide variety of risks from industrial chemicals.  The reality is that Virginia ranks worryingly high in the amount …

Jan. 17, 2014 by Rena Steinzor
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For the past week, 300,000 people in and around Charleston, West Virginia, have been unable to drink the water that came from their taps, because of the toxic byproduct of feeble regulation and non-existent enforcement. Thousands of gallons of a coal-cleaning agent seeped into the local water supply after it oozed out of an antiquated storage tank and then overflowed a surrounding containment area just a mile upriver from the local water plant. Significantly, inspectors had not visited the facility in more than a decade, except by a smattering of state officials focused on air pollution, who walked on by the corroded tank and the bird's eye view of the river.

Disturbingly, we know very little about the effects of the chemical on humans. The weak federal Toxic Substance Control Act and the diminished enforcement power of the EPA and state officials in West Virginia …

Jan. 14, 2014 by Anne Havemann
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As congressional negotiators reconcile the House- and Senate-passed Farm Bills, they are considering two provisions that would cut off access to information about federally subsidized farm programs and threaten public health and safety.

The Farm Bill will provide farmers with billions of dollars in federal subsidies, crop insurance, conservation payments, and other grants.  The vast majority of the farms that qualify for these federal dollars are incorporated businesses that turn a profit by working the land.  Yet, by conjuring up idealized images of a family sharing an old-fashioned farmhouse at the end of a country lane, the farm lobby managed to convince House lawmakers to pass two provisions that would prohibit federal agencies from revealing much of the basic information about the farms.  The government does not take such a hands-off approach with any other recipient of federal money.

This information can be critical to maintaining public …

Jan. 13, 2014 by Rena Steinzor
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Today, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) sent its benighted poultry-processing rule to the White House for final review.  The millions of consumers who eat undercooked chicken at their peril and the beleaguered workers in these dank, overcrowded, and dangerous plants can only hope the President’s people come to their senses over there and kill this misguided fiasco.   

Ordinarily, we would have hoped that newly installed Department of Labor secretary Tom Perez would have put his foot down before USDA proceeded with the final rule, but after months of pleas from the National Council of La Raza, African American labor advocates, trade unions, and consumer groups across the spectrum, he has remained aloof.  Apparently, the economic needs of multi-billion dollar poultry processing companies that have brought us salmonella outbreak after salmonella outbreak will once again trump the needs of the consumers and workers, especially Hispanic and …

Jan. 8, 2014 by Joseph Tomain
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In his 2013 book, The Bet, Yale historian Paul Sabin uses Paul Ehrlich and Julian Simon as foils to explain today’s dysfunctional and polarized politics surrounding energy development and environmental protection. In 1980, Ehrlich and Simon bet each other on the price of five minerals (chromium, copper, nickel, tin, and tungsten.) Ehrlich, a neo-Malthusian, and father of Zero Population Growth, believed that thoughtless and unconstrained consumption of natural resources by an ever-expanding human population would literally doom the planet.  Ehrlich posited that by 1990, world population growth would exacerbate the scarcity of natural resources and, therefore, resource prices would rise.   

Simon, by contrast, took the position that population growth was an overall benefit to society and that innovation and market pricing would cause resource prices to fall.  Simon argued further that the human creativity that population growth entailed would spur economic growth and increase human well-being …

Jan. 6, 2014 by Lisa Heinzerling
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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently recommitted itself to its lame proposal to address the profligate use of antibiotics in livestock by enlisting the voluntary participation of the drug companies that make the antibiotics.  Two documents issued last month reveal the details of the agency’s current plans.   The first is a final guidance document describing the FDA’s process for handling drug sponsors’ voluntary efforts to phase out “production uses” of antibiotics in animal feed and water and to bring the remaining uses under the oversight of a veterinarian. The second is a draft rule relaxing the requirements for veterinarians in exercising this oversight.  Production uses are aimed at promoting growth and improving feed efficiency, not at treating active infections.  The FDA will continue to allow mass medication of whole herds and flocks of livestock for purposes of preventing infection.

The FDA has, in internal …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
Jan. 30, 2014

A Turning of the Tide? More Belief in Government, Less Blind Faith in Markets

Jan. 27, 2014

US Chamber of Commerce: More of the Same

Jan. 22, 2014

Has OIRA really improved the timeliness of its reviews? Nope, it just has a new scheme for delaying safeguards and defeating transparency

Jan. 22, 2014

The Obama legacy: will West Virginia toxic spill join the queue of episodes showing that “government”—and whatever it means to the President—broke on his watch?

Jan. 20, 2014

Fixing Virginia's toxic chemical problem

Jan. 17, 2014

The age of greed: Mitch McConnell goes to bat for Big Coal after West Virginia catastrophe

Jan. 14, 2014

Going dark on the farm: Farm Bill could cloak big ag in even more secrecy