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Newt's House of I11 Repute

The Republican Congress Is Auctioning Off Public Safety

By David W. Brown

"Money doesn't talk, it swears, Obscenity, who really cares? Propaganda All is phony." --Bob Dylan

Congress is a whorehouse, and Newt Gingrich is the madam. He panders to the obscene desires of corporate America and ensures that the sick fantasies of depraved plutocrats are fulfilled.

Gingrich runs his cathouse efficiently, and since last November he has never had so many hookers. Some of them have been tied up, spanked and sodomized by lawyers and lobbyists for years. Many of them are new to the world's oldest profession, but since arriving in Washington they have been turning tricks with unabashed fervor for Madam Gingrich and his clients.

Wait! What can I be thinking? The Republicans are decent, moral folk. They represent Americans who have been continually maligned--no, not the poor or the disabled, but the middle class. The Gingrich troops speak for the middle class, the hard-working "normal Americans" who are often taken for granted by Washington's bureaucrats and special interest groups. They protect the continued prosperity of the middle class. They guarantee that the American dream remains alive.

These GOP legislators are fighting to ensure that the middle class has access to dirty water, filthy air, cancer-causing substances and dangerous workplaces. For too long, regulatory bodies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have barred the middle class from enjoying pollution and various health hazards.

Current Republican legislation will curtail regulatory tyranny. Not only will the EPA's plans to make water cleaner be halted, but the EPA will be forbidden from enforcing current regulations regarding storm water runoff, sewage overflow and toxic dumping. Hundreds of millions of dollars that the EPA provides to assist states in paying for water and sewage treatment plants will be eliminated. The EPA's influence in curbing radon in drinking water and cancer-causing substances in food will be eviscerated. Guidelines and programs to decrease air pollution will be scrapped or reduced in funding. Even the ban on chlorofluorocarbons--the chemical responsible for ozone depletion--is now subject to further review.

Since the honest, industrious middle class obviously has little concern for the safety of the offices, factories, etc. where they must toil, the Republicans have sunk their teeth into OSHA as well. Many OSHA regulations will be made voluntary, wisely allowing the captains of industry to make the appropriate cost/benefit decisions regarding dangers in the workplace. And some hazards, such as repetitive stress disorders, will be completely off-limits from OSHA regulations.

Then there is the FDA, which has continually stood between the American people and untested pharmaceutical products. The FDA recently proposed that simple and comprehensive information sheets be included with every new prescription drug. Although the agency estimates that the nation spends $20 billion dollars every year treating patients who fail to take their medicine properly or sustain serious side effects, their plan is nothing more than a regulatory yoke around the necks of the middle class. The FDA also spends months painstakingly testing new medicines--why not simply trust the drug companies to release safe and effective products directly to the market?

The FDA also plans to crack down on teenage smokers, who currently spend $1.2 billion dollars per year on smoke-filled treats. Even though one million teenagers get hooked on cigarettes every year and one-third of them will eventually die as a result of their addiction, the heavy hand of government should not be meddling in the lucrative tobacco industry.

On second thought, maybe Gingrich and his disciples do not have the interests of the middle class in mind. Maybe they aren't interested in getting the heavy hands of jack-booted government regulators off the American people. Maybe the Republicans really are a bunch of dirty whores.

Yes, the Republicans have prostituted themselves to big business interests who are willing to trade a clean and safe America for profits and higher stock prices. Much of the proposed legislation was not even written by the GOP "legislators"; it was penned directly by lawyers and lobbyists who represent various industries and polluters. The proverbial fox guarding the henhouse never had it so good. The Republicans are shamelessly and unapologetically promoting a pro-business agenda that makes the gluttony of the 1980s look like their party's moral pinnacle.

The GOP assault on public health and safety regulation is two-pronged. First, they want to prevent government agencies from accomplishing their goals simply by cutting their funding. Without money to hire employees, investigate health and safety risks and enforce statutes, these agencies will be toothless. For example, House legislation slashes the EPA budget by one-third, to $4.9 billion dollars. In contrast, President Clinton has proposed a modest increase in the EPA budget.

The second GOP tactic is to specifically limit rules and enforcement procedures that government regulators can use. Most of these restrictions patently serve specific industries. For example, oil and gas industries benefit from legislation that would block EPA programs designed to lower gasoline consumption, mainly by reducing automobile commuting and promoting increased fuel efficiency.

The GOP also proposes to rescind laws requiring polluters to pay for cleaning up their own toxic waste. Usually, Republican philosophy is to make the public pay for the externalities and vices of the private sector, but the current budget-cutting fever in Washington has led to even more perverse policy. Since the government's funding of toxic dump cleanups would also be severely reduced, many dumps would not be cleaned up at all.

One of the Republican initiatives which was defeated was an attempt to bar FDA meat inspectors from scientifically inspecting meat for E. Coli and other bacteria, viruses and vermin. Until now, FDA inspectors were only permitted to inspect meat visually. Each year, thousands of people die from eating contaminated meat, and many more become ill. Yet the Republicans sided with the meat industry, which see the new regulations only as a serious meat to profits.

The Republican environmental and public health agenda clearly illustrates who the GOP represents. Their professed commitment to the middle class is a ridiculous fabrication. The harlotry of Gingrich and his ilk makes Heidi Fleiss and Divine Brown seem chaste. And while these politicians turn tricks for big business, the rest of America and its posterity get screwed.

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