Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Portsmouth Herald Showcases the Republican Song and Dance: Susan Collins Style

Yesterday, the Portsmouth Herald published a 20 paragraph, two columns letter from Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) with some surprising news: Over-regulation by Washington is the reason we are having economic problems.

I wonder where she got that novel insight?

This does sound familiar, as you hear it ad nauseum from virtually every Republican, as if they are reciting Hail Marys.

Why did she feel compelled to repeat these flabby canards?

I was under the apparently mistaken impression our economic woes had something to do which a more complex morass of what was happening in the world wide economy. (Perhaps Senator Collins has not heard of a certain little brouhaha in a place called Europe, and Greece in particular. ) And mixed in that brew are two wars (led by her own party) and a financial meltdown visited upon us by a lack of regulation.

And I seem to recall there a little problem with greedy bankers and stock brokers who sold rotten mortgage backed securities which caused both the housing market and world markets to crash?

If this is true, perhaps the Senator is confusing the disease (greed, and its fellow traveler, unscrupulous behavior) with the therapy (vigorously enforced regulation.)

But now we have a United States Senator, who people have been fond of describing as a "Moderates Republican" screaming about regulations holding down the economy. (Maybe this is like one of those fraternity stunts you have to do to be taken into the club. You know, like running around the quad in your underwear in the snow, shouting, "Beware the Sky is Falling!)

Senator Collins certainly sounds as if she knows: “Crushing new regulations,” are on their way: More than 4,200 new rules 845 affect small business with economic impact of $100 million each costing 90,000 American jobs. Wow! And Senator Collins has been talking to “businessmen” and “Job Creators” who tell her “Uncertainty generated by Washington is a big wet blanket on our economy.”

Perhaps, if she had listened more closely, she’d have realized the kind of uncertainty they are talking about is the kind created when her own party, the Republican party, initially refused to allow FEMA relief payments for flood victims in Vermont and elsewhere. When the Republicans try to control and regulate—no FEMA payments until we cut something from government programs —well that’s just responsible government action. And talk about uncertainty: Let’s spend the summer closing down the government by dreaming up a problem (as if we don’t have enough already) called the “Deficit.”

I keep looking for the specific regulations which are dragging down our economy and Senator Collins offers only two examples: Walnuts and boiler emissions.

Let’s take the case of walnuts; it’s something I actually know about. Senator Collins says, “Washington claimed the walnuts were being marketed as a drug, so the government ordered the company to stop telling consumers about the benefits of nuts.”

Oh, bad government! Down boy! Good walnut sellers. Good boy.

The problem with the Senator’s argument is there are no persuasive, double blind, controlled prospective trials to confirm any of the claims made for walnuts (avoid heart disease, improve blood sugar control in diabetes.) There are lots of claims made for a variety of foods, but these are studies which leave a lot to be desired, scientifically. How many walnuts do you have to eat a day to raise your HDL cholesterol? Is the effect transitory or sustained? Does this actually result in an outcome we care about, like reduced heart attacks? Or do people simply gain weight and start smelling like walnuts?

But the lack of evidence never stopped the walnut purveyors from making those claims. This is part of the culture of commerce, which in this country trumps the culture of science every time. If you have a "scientific claim" which can be turned into cash, the Republican Party and the folks in the money chain are rooting for you, whether or not the claim is phony. Every day I see on TV advertisements for FRUIT LOOPS as being good for your child’s health because of their fiber content! Imagine if the government tried to stomp all over those Job Creators at the Fruit Loop Company for deceptive advertising.

But deceptive advertising is nothing that bothers Ms. Collins or her party. They do it all the time.

Just consider the case of her partner, across the river, Kelly Ayotte who voted to kill Medicare and then claimed the Republican party was not trying to kill Medicare, it was just “Improving” it. Improving it, by converting it into a coupon care program. So you would get, say $8000 a year to spend on whatever your little heart desires for medical care, and you’d save the government a bundle of money and help keep the big bad Deficit away. Of course, if you needed a coronary bypass that year, the bill would be somewhere in the neighborhood of $200,000. But, hey, $8,000 is a start. Your children can chip in. And you could sell your house.

I don’t know much about boilers, but the Senator from Maine tells me the regulations had something to do with the Environmental Protection Agency, which her party believes to be a Democratic anti business machine and the EPA is at it again, regulating “emissions” from these boilers which will cost 90,000 jobs. I don’t know, maybe she’s right. Whenever she trots out big numbers, you know she must know what she’s talking about.

But then again, think about those walnuts.

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