DRILL AND POLLUTE
In thrall to dirty-energy interests, House Republicans have held more than 300 votes to hamstring the EPA, roll back environmental protections and open up sensitive public land to drilling – offering polluters a virtual license to kill. "This is, without doubt, the most anti-environmental Congress in history," said Rep. Henry Waxman, the ranking Democrat on the House Energy Committee.
Under the Republicans, the House has voted to ban the EPA from placing limits on climate-warming pollution, to reverse new fuel standards projected to slash dependence on foreign oil and save Americans $1.7 trillion at the pump, and to end standards signed into law by President Bush that would phase out wasteful, high-wattage incandescent light bulbs. Even more reckless, the House voted to block limits on deadly mercury emissions – a move that federal scientists calculate would result in 20,000 premature deaths – and drop safeguards on cement manufacturing that would kill another 12,500 Americans and lead to thousands of avoidable heart attacks.
In February, over the objections of the State Department, the House voted to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport toxic tar sands from Canada across the Midwest's largest and most vulnerable supply of drinking water. In that same vote, the House returned to the great dream of the Bush era, voting to permit the oil industry to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. In an even more sweeping move, the House passed a bill to block all new major regulations until the nation's unemployment rate falls to six percent – a measure that would choke off not only new environmental safeguards, but also the new limits on Wall Street recklessness required under Dodd-Frank.
In June, the house approved a raft of amendments blocking Obama's executive directives on immigration reform. The legislation would prevent the administration from prioritizing the deportation of violent criminals over law-abiding immigrants, and put Homeland Security back in the business of deporting the undocumented spouses of American citizens. The House even found a way to merge its dirty-energy agenda with its anti-immigrant stance, passing a "border bill" that bars enforcement of 16 key environmental laws – including the Endangered Species Act – on federal land within 100 miles of the Mexican border. The bill is a sop to the Minuteman crowd, who don't want to contend with environmental rules as they erect electrified fences to keep out immigrants. But the measure is so broadly written that it also applies to the Canadian border, opening up places like Glacier National Park in Montana to bulldozers. Rep. Denny Rehberg, a Republican from Montana, calls the bill "absolutely necessary" to secure his state from "drug dealers, human traffickers and terrorists."
In perhaps its most absurd gesture, the House GOP managed to weave together its hatred of immigrants and abortions, passing a rider that bans the government from providing abortions to immigrants in detention. The move is a brave solution in search of an actual problem: Federal agencies have never paid for such a procedure.
House Republicans have voted three times to extend all of the Bush-era tax cuts – a move that would blow a $3.8 trillion hole in the budget over the next decade. In fact, the Ryan budget – twice approved by the House – goes even further, doling out another $2.5 trillion to the wealthiest Americans by reducing the tax rate on top earners from 35 to just 25 percent, lowering the corporate rate to 25 percent, and ending the alternative minimum tax, a safeguard against tax cheats.
Romney, in fact, wants to give away even more to the rich than Republicans in the House by permanently eliminating the estate tax – a proposal that alarmsr veterans of the first Bush administration. "Given the vast amounts of wealth that have accumulated at the very, very, very top, it's an odd time to be eliminating this most progressive element of the tax system," says Michael Graetz, a former deputy assistant Treasury secretary under Bush. Over a decade, Romney's gift to the nation's most fortunate families would allow their heirs to pocket at least $1 trillion (including up to $50 million for Mitt's own heirs).
Those without family fortunes, meanwhile, would see their taxes soar. Independent tax groups have concluded that the only way to replace the tax revenue lost by the proposed Ryan and Romney tax cuts would be to end tax breaks – like the one for home-mortgage interest – that directly benefit the middle class. And the poor would get the shaft: The Ryan budget slashes the Child Tax Credit, meaning that a single mother of two earning the minimum wage would watch her annual tax bill rise by more than $1,500.
Under the Ryan blueprint approved by the House and voted for by 40 GOP senators, government spending on everything that's not Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security – NASA, highways, education, you name it – would be cut in half by 2022 and nearly in half again by 2050, until it stands at just 3.5 percent of the economy. As the Congressional Budget Service notes, such spending levels would be unprecedented in modern times: Since World War II, the government's discretionary spending has never fallen below eight percent of GDP.
If signed into law by President Romney, the Ryan budget would slash spending on college tuition grants by 42 percent next year and kick 1 million students out of the program. It would also gut funding for public schools, food and drug safety, basic science research, law enforcement and low-income housing. The cuts to food stamps alone would total $134 billion over the next decade. Ripping Ryan for trying to cloak his budget in Catholic doctrine, priests and faculty from Georgetown University wrote, "Your budget appears to reflect the values of your favorite philosopher, Ayn Rand, rather than the gospel of Jesus Christ." There is one place, however, where Republicans want to increase spending: Under the most recent Ryan budget, the Pentagon would receive an extra $29 billion a year, reversing Obama's modest efforts to slow the growth of defense spending. Where would the extra cash come from? In May, the House approved a Ryan bill to replace automatic cuts to the Pentagon under the debt-ceiling agreement with $261 billion in cuts to the federal safety net. The measure would deny food stamps to 1.8 million Americans, leave 280,000 kids without school lunches and cut off health care to 300,000 poor children.
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