Is 12,000 Lives Worth a Re-Election? Because People Have to Breathe This Crap

I’ve often said on this blog that a key test of any policy should be ‘people have to like this crap.’ Well, air quality is something people notice–can’t really finesse breathing difficulties and asthma attacks.

By now, you have heard that the Obama administration has delayed lowering the allowed emissions of ground-level ozone on the grounds that this would cost jobs (never mind that people would be employed bring businesses into compliance). Most of the progressive reaction has focused on the false claim that the regulations would cost more than they would save or that jobs, despite conservative claims, would not be lost (and debunking the administration’s claim that the rules would have to revisited in two years anyway is good too). These are legitimate points to make, but they seem to be missing something kinda important.

What’s that? Well, let’s go to The LA Times (emphasis mine):

Research shows that living in areas with high concentrations of ozone worsens respiratory ailments. The EPA estimates that up to 12,000 lives could be saved annually from implementing the new standards.

(the EPA summary is a pdf from here)

12,000 dead people. Every year. That is the point, not the economic policy. For fuck’s sake, we invaded the wrong country after terrorists killed 3,000 people, not 12,000. We could save thousands of lives, prevent tens of thousands of hopsitalizations with the stroke of a pen. Actually, that’s not correct. President Obama could prevent this. And his unwillingness to do so has nothing to with the control of the House by the Republicans or conservative Democrats in the Senate: this is all him. Of course, there’s a very good reason for this decision:

The issue had become a flashpoint between the administration and Republicans in Congress, who held up the proposed ozone rule as a test of the White House’s commitment to regulatory reform and job creation. Imposing the new rule before the 2012 election would have created political problems for the administration and for Democrats nationwide seeking election in a brittle economy.

On the other hand, not imposing the rule before the 2012 election creates breathing problems for some Democrats, although they typically don’t seek election or know the right sort of people. Sucks to be them I suppose.

One final note about the media coverage. Why is no paper running with the lede “Obama Administration Delays Ozone Rules That Could Save 12,000 Lives Annually”? Most stories barely touch on this, and those that do bury it at the end of the story.

We are governed* by sociopaths.

*By governance, I don’t only mean the government, but the other structures that organize our lives such as media corporations.

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3 Responses to Is 12,000 Lives Worth a Re-Election? Because People Have to Breathe This Crap

  1. It’s getting harder and harder to rationalize voting for him. I mean, I know the alternatives are much, much worse, but can’t we ever stop settling for the lesser of two evils?

  2. Pingback: Mario Cuomo Was Wrong: You Govern in Poetry | Mike the Mad Biologist

  3. Something I disagree with in this blog post:

    “Well, air quality is something people notice–can’t really finesse breathing difficulties and asthma attacks.”

    No, it’s actually not. People do not notice air quality, because something like ozone levels is not obvious. It does not change rapidly enough to notice if a policy results in a difference in air quality. It’s not like air quality is going to suddenly improve one day and everyone is going to say “Oh yeah, it’s because of that Obama policy that it was smoggy yesterday and it’s not today”

    Even something like asthma attacks won’t be an obvious indicator. It’s not like someone with asthma is going to see a dramatic difference overnight. They might eventually realize that they are having less asthma attacks than they had a few years prior and maybe, perhaps they will attribute that to cleaner air.

    That makes it less important for elections. Not enacting the policy won’t change anyone’s life in an obvious enough way to make them change how they will vote. Most people won’t notice it.

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