The big winner in last night’s GOP presidential debate was, of course, none of the above.  The big loser was the planet we inhabit with those knuckleheads. Not surprisingly, the all-Fox panel of interrogators didn’t pose a single question about the environment.  And, with one exception, none of the candidates had anything to say about the subject.

The exception was Jon Huntsman, the whiny and lethargic former governor of Utah and Obama ambassador to China, who referred…not once but twice…to an “EPA reign of terror.” Mr. Huntsman didn’t offer any specifics, but made it clear that the one of the major obstacles standing between our country and longterm economic prosperity is the pollution agency’s heavy-handed, soul-destroying, business-drowning regulatory oversight of…well, again, he didn’t really say. But let’s give him full marks for going all in.

Apparently, it’s republican gospel that a healthy economy is fundamentally incompatible with clean air and water, inconsistent with the careful licensing of pesticides, and forever at odds with any attempt to limit the production of greenhouse gases that have already set in motion catastrophic climate change. Well, it’s their religion and they are welcome to it.

But put me down as doubtful that EPA actions can be fairly called a “reign of terror.” Just over four decades old…the EPA was established by President Nixon in 1970 after his administration conducted a lengthy review of federal policy on environmental matters…the agency has a checkered history. In the early days it aggressively cancelled a number of dangerous pesticides. But eventually the chemical companies…who are responsible for the safety testing of their own products…learned how to game the system. Potentially dangerous products can remain on the market for years as the EPA reviews study after study.  And the agency now confronts a whole new category of safety concerns over compounds that mimic or interfere with hormones. The EPA has developed new assays for such effects, but it has been slow going and will likely remain so.

As for the idea that the agency will one day begin to regulate greenhouse gases…we’ll have to be patient. Very patient. Republicans in congress have proposed legislation to block any such regulation…again operating on an article of faith that global warming is either a hoax or something that would cost too much to do anything about.

So if you have a concern for good old planet Earth, President Obama must be your man. Because unlike the republicans, he is deeply committed to protecting the environment. Just look at everything he’s done for it during his first term. You have to look hard, I’ll admit. Okay, really really hard. You’ve gotta try. Go ahead. Try.

Minnesota Execptionalism

Miracle Man.
Texas Governor Rick Perry is the news media’s Flavor of the Month. He’s getting rave reviews, much of it focused on the miracle economy he has reportedly engineered. When you Google “Rick Perry unemployment rate” this morning, you will be treated to several thousand articles gushing that Texas’s unemployment rate is a point lower than the national unemployment rate.

So, Rick Perry is all in. As the great Texas anthropologist Jerry Jeff Walker observed, “when a Texan fancies, he’ll take his chances, chances will be taken.”

Perry’s rave reviews have to rankle Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty. Because when you look at economic and quality of life numbers through Minnesota goggles, Texas doesn’t look so miraculous.

• MN unemployement rate is 6.7%. TX is 8.2%. US is 9.1%.
• MN median household income is $54,403. TX is $53,009. (adjusted for cost-of-living)
• MN heath insurance rate is 91%. TX is 76%. US is 85%.
• MN infant mortality rate is 4.8%. TX is 6.5%. US is 6.9%
• MN high school graduation rate is 85.4%. TX is 65.3%. US is 70.1%

Texas envy?
So, remind me again, why do we want Minnesota and the whole nation to become like Rick Perry’s Texas?

Yes, taxes in Texas are lower than in Minnesota, and just about every other place on the planet. If your life’s ambition is to pay as little taxes as possible, Mr. Perry might well be the low bidder. But I lived in Texas as a poor student – hook ‘em Horns — and I can tell you that you get what you pay for. If your life’s ambition is for your family to have a decent income, good health care, and healthy, smart kids, Perry may not be your guy. The numbers tell the story.

Of course, Tim Pawlenty is no miracle worker either. Under Pawlenty, Minnesota took a dramatic step backwards. Thanks to Pawlenty’s cuts in state health coverage programs, uninsurance rates went from 6.6% to 9.1, a 29% freefall. Real median income has declined by 9%, which is twice as fast as the nation as a whole. Minnesota fell from 8th in the nation in per capita income to 14th. And despite throwing $150 million in handouts to business owners through his aborably named JOBZ program, job growth under Pawlenty was 0.5%, lowest of any of the former Governor’s seeking the presidency.

But give Governor Pawlenty his due. It’s not like he drove us below Rick Perry’s Texas.

– Loveland