If an election is coming, that means each side needs a bogeyman. The Republicans have chosen first, and theirs is the Environmental Protection Agency. Michele Bachman calls the EPA “the job-killing organization of America,” promising to “padlock” its doors. Tea Party leader Eric Cantor says environmental rules are “job-destroying”. Texas Gov. Rick Perry says he “prays daily” for the EPA to be restricted.
Soon Democrats will choose their bogeyman – The Rich are the current frontrunner.
Elections often are dominated by bogeymen – Republicans claim Democrats don’t care about national defense, Democrats claim Republicans want to eliminate Social Security, that sort of nonsense. Environmental bogeymen are appealing to some factions because the issue involves regulatory arcana that hardly anyone understands, and because environmental subjects are poorly reported in the mainstream media.
What’s maddening about the politics of the environment is that both sides consistently assert things that aren’t even close to true. The right claims that environmental regulations hurt the economy – data show the reverse. The left claims the environment is dying – data show the reverse.
Consider environmental rules and the economy. From 1980 to the beginning of the 2008 recession, the very period in which environmental regulations went from few to many, the U.S. GDP rose 124 percent in inflation-adjusted terms. Most of that period was gangbusters for growth and employment. If environmental regulations are “job destroying,” the economy has a funny way of showing it.